Nintendo shook the Internet to its very core earlier this week with the reveal of its newest project: Nintendo Labo – a line of constructible cardboard toy-sets that have the special feature of interacting with the Switch. While the announcement was met with quite a bit of positive responses (not to mention comical ones thanks to all the dank memes), there have been folks who are rather sour towards the idea. If you happen to dislike the concept of Labo, here’s a possible reason: this wasn’t made for you.
The thing about this situation is that Nintendo already knew that not everyone was going to take kindly to the announcement of Labo. That’s why prior to the announcement, it singled-out the audience that it would be targeting: “Kids and those who are kids at heart.” Of course, before the full reveal nobody had any idea that it would be cardboard toys, but this really is the perfect description of who Labo is for. I talked about this in my recent article about why I think Nintendo Labo is a Brilliant Idea, but allow me to reiterate.
Labo is for anyone who considers themselves to be artistic and creative. It’s for the people who enjoy building and tinkering with things, making designs, thinking outside of the box (pun intended). It’s for the engineers and hobbyists; the same group of folks who spend hours building LEGO sets, constructing models, and have boxes full of art supplies like paper, paint, glue, rulers, and pencils. It’s for the kids who are in art classes at schools and camps, and the parents who have to help them with their projects.
If you don’t fall into any of these categories, then just ignore it. It wasn’t made for you, and that’s okay. Nobody’s forcing you to like it. In fact, Nintendo isn’t forcing this at all.
Nintendo has made it very clear what audience Labo is meant for.
Looking back at the Wii, Wii U and 3DS, there’s a common theme: they all possessed unique features that were a bit controversial. For the Wii it was motion controls, the Wii U had the Gamepad, and the 3DS had the 3D-screen. These features were enjoyed by a lot of folks, but there were also those who wished these weren’t present at all (Nintendo must have heard the complaints loud and clear when it came to the 3DS, hence the reason the 2DS/New 2DS XL now exist). What made these features controversial was that they were the very crux of each of the systems, so there was no getting away from it (minus the 3DS/2DS). This is where Labo shines—nobody has to buy it. It’s a new experience meant for those who want it.
The reveal trailer and promotional images for Nintendo Labo all feature kids and parents, showing exactly who the target audience is. The Switch itself, on the other hand, is targeting the ‘core’ gaming crowd. This is the crowd that felt slighted by Nintendo during the era of the Wii, DS and 3DS era because the company was catering to the casual audience. Nintendo has clearly learned its lesson. Labo and its casual-oriented nature is not interfering with the Switch itself; it’s being treated as a separate project. This is similar to that of PlayStation VR: it’s a part of the PS4 ecosystem, but Sony isn’t forcing it down consumers’ throats. Sony is aware that not everyone is interested in virtual reality, so it’s giving people the option to have it or not. The same is true for Nintendo Labo.
Nintendo, as well as third-parties and indie developers, will still be creating ‘traditional’ games for the Switch. The system isn’t changing because of Labo, as it only serves as an extension of the Switch’s capabilities. But you know, this still isn’t enough for some people. Some of the complaints I’ve seen against Labo don’t involve people just disliking it, but even more so there are those who wish it didn’t exist at all. So, that opens up a question: why does Labo exist in the first place?
Labo is a strange, yet intriguing idea. Fittingly, it’s is an embodiment of Nintendo’s business strategy.
I touched on it in my aforementioned article, but I’ll reiterate yet again: this is Nintendo showing just how much it doesn’t care about industry trends. Ever since the company came into the game industry, it’s been doing its own thing. That behavior has increased more and more with each passing generation, and when the Wii and DS came around, this ‘strategy of uniqueness’ was fully embraced. Nintendo hasn’t changed since.
The Switch itself is a continuation of that concept as it’s the first truly hybrid system to ever come about. With Labo, Nintendo is further pushing the boundaries of its quest to ‘dare to be different.’ Nintendo of France’s General Manager recently said in an interview that Nintendo deliberately sets itself apart from Sony and Microsoft because it simply doesn’t wish to compete against them head-on out of fear it would be destroyed. He gave the reason for that possibility—because Nintendo is a lot smaller than those two companies. That’s true, and as a result, Nintendo chooses to forge its own path. The result of that is zany ideas like constructible cardboard toys. Is it ridiculous? Yes, of course. But is it actually a terrible idea? Not at all, just different, and this is exactly what will help both Nintendo and the Switch continue to stand out.
Whether Labo becomes a huge success or a flop, the Switch will continue to live on. Considering that Labo fully relies on the Switch, which has already built up an impressive amount of momentum on its own, I think Labo has the potential to be a big seller. This could result in Nintendo pushing it hard, but that still doesn’t mean it will take over the Switch. So, again, if you don’t like Labo, then simply don’t buy it. Just keep enjoying the Switch as it already is—a traditonal console; this side of it isn’t going anywhere.