So You’ve Broken Your Labo! Now What?
By Antonio Guillen
April 20th marks the US release of the Nintendo Labo gaming/construction platform. Soon kids and kids-at-heart around the world will be assembling kits, using cardboard cut-outs, rubber bands, and stickers to make Toy-Cons that can interact with software for the Nintendo Switch.
Soon after the Labo announcement last January, when the classic Nintendo wave of shock and awe receded, practical questions about the pricing and logistics regarding Labo replacement parts cast a cloud over the concept.
Toys break. What Nintendo would do to help consumers when theirs did, wasn’t apparent.
Back to Basics
What was clear from the outset was that Labo was an innovative initiative. For a company that makes big bucks keeping gamers coming back to their handheld and hybrid consoles, launching a new line that leans heavily into constructing things with your hands is a bit strange (or brilliant depending on how sales shake out).
On the other hand, the big N is, and has always been, a toy company. Getting back to basics wouldn’t be the biggest leap we’ve seen the risk-taking company make over the last few generations. In fact, thinking outside the box has paid off for Nintendo immensely at times.
Nintendo famously came out on top when it bet on the unconventional Wii console. It turned out that motion controls were intuitive and family friendly. As a result the Wii became the best-selling home video-game console ever produced by Nintendo, with sales of over 100 million units.
Unfortunately, for every Wii there is a WiiU, and if history has taught us anything, we know that Nintendo is not above reproach and missteps are part of the journey of innovation. If anyone can continue to take big risks though, it's Nintendo, whose financial position allows them to keep shooting for the stars.
Make, Play, Discover
aturally, Nintendo has taken Labo to the people and initial reports from preview events, including that of our very own Gary Gray, have been overwhelmingly positive. The consensus seems to be that playing with assembled Labo is fun, but the long-term success may rely on the construction and deconstruction phases of the platform.
At these hands-on events guests seem to have no problem following on-screen and written instructions to put together the more simple trinkets from the Variety Kit, like the Toy-Con RC Car, but what of the 28 cardboard sheet Robot Kit?
Taking a peek at the parts and materials online you can get an idea of what you’re in for, as it lists a number of strings, straps and grommets. If you’re a parent, a.k.a. the potential construction foreman who is going to oversee the project, you might pause before purchase.
That’s to say nothing of the ‘Discover’ phase, and Toy-Con garage that encourages you to use the included software to help you ‘peek inside’ and learn how everything works so you can invent your own ways to play. I wonder how parents are going to feel when experimentation goes awry and kids pick apart toys begging for help to put them back in working order. How much experimentation will the cardboard and rubber bands handle before giving out?
For instance, lets say the inevitable happens and your three-year-old steps on your fragile mini grand piano. A replacement cardboard pack will set you back $11.99, not too bad. Did you get too aggressive reeling in a big catch and snapped your prized Joy-Con fishing pole? That will be another $8.99 please.
The Robot Kit again is more complicated, as the website lists 5 packs which can be purchased for repairs to your bot’s knobs, sliders, straps, weights, visor and feet, not to mention seperate sticker and accessory packs. This new information sheds some light on the costs associated with the Labo bundles and gives us and idea of the prices Nintendo might set for future materials and software.
Will Nintendo find more success selling smaller Toy-Cons individually in the future and abandon higher priced kits in an effort to bring down the price tag for those in the ‘I’m not paying for cardboard’ camp? We shall see.
Here's a breakdown of the costs of each replacement pack. We'll update this article with UK prices once Labo hits store shelves there next week (assuming they're made available to UK consumers too).
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit $69.99/£59.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit $79.99/£69.99
Nintendo Labo Customization Set: $9.99/£8.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - Accessory Pack: $9.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - Reflective Sticker Sheet Set: $2.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - Fishing Rod Cardboard Pack: $8.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - House Cardboard Pack: $5.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - Motorbike Cardboard Pack: $11.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - Piano Cardboard Pack: $11.99
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit - RC Car + Discover Cardboard Pack: $2.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Accessory Pack: $9.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Reflective Sticker Sheet: $1.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Knobs Cardboard Pack: $5.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Slider Cardboard Pack: $9.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Straps Cardboard Pack: $5.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Weights Cardboard Pack: $7.99
Nintendo Labo Robot Kit - Visor + Feet + Joy-Con Holder Cardboard Pack: $5.99
It’s Labo Day!
I’m excited to join the hundreds have gone hands on with Labo already. As I sit here thinking through how I’m going to go about sharing my thoughts and impressions with the Nintendo Village community I can’t help but be equally fascinated with how other outlets are going to approach the task.
On this merry Labo Day I have a few big looming questions…
Is it possible to place a traditional review score on the platform as a whole as we would a console? If any score is given should it be relegated to each kit or individual Toy-Con? Is the included software (the ‘game’ portion of the platform) to be judged like any other game or app?
Labo seems complicated on many fronts. How will the public view the nuances in pricing, replacement parts, and the unique mix of hardware and software? I can’t help but think that some consumers will ignore the small print and not realise a Nintendo Switch console is required for full functionality. Hopefully retailers will be careful to point this out.
These questions are more will be answered in time. For now its time to make, play and discover what Labo is all about.
Antonio specializes in video production, audio engineering and graphic design, and co-hosts the Switch Talk podcast. His love for the Switch has brought him back to his first love, Nintendo. He turns to gaming for escapism and gravitates towards RPGs, FPS and Action/Adventure games. His favorite game of all time is Super Mario World.