Nintendo are going to sell us cardboard. Wait, what? Have Nintendo gone and jumped the shark on us. Is this Nintendo finally just saying, ‘fuck it, milk the cash cows’?
Well, not strictly speaking. Yes, Nintendo is going to sell an accessory for the Nintendo Switch which requires some home assembly. Yes, one of the sets is going to cost £69.99. For cardboard. £69.99 for cardboard. For actual cardboard that is made of cardboard. Let’s just take a moment to let that sink in. Cardboard.
Now, in truth, the Nintendo cardboard product is called Labo, and is mostly aimed at children. So, if you’re out there, an adult who is angry that Nintendo are trying to sell you cardboard, then stop, they’re not. They’re trying to sell it to the kids. They’re stupid. They’ll buy anything.
In fairness, Nintendo Labo looks to combine the small form-factor of the switch, the JoyCon motion controls and cardboard assembled toys, like a piano or a fishing rod and, much like 1-2 Switch, you’ll play little mini-games using both the JoyCon inserted into the kit and the display on the tablet. Yes, there are certain questions to be had about just how durable this product will be, but anyone buying something made of cardboard should have already thought of that. Look, just watch the trailer and decide for yourself if this is a good thing.
Faux boiling piss aside, I don’t care too much about this product. In fact, this is a classic Nintendo move. Never has there been a developer who has tried to bring so many odd peripherals to their consoles, each one a little forgotten nugget of history and some have gone on to infamy.
Of all the Nintendo Labo accessories, the robot kit is perhaps the most expensive and most convoluted. Despite this, it harkens back to a simpler time at Nintendo. Back in the 80’s, The Robotic Operating Buddy, or R.O.B for short, was the first of Nintendo’s little experiments. It was an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System and was invented as a sort of trojan horse, as the videogame industry in 1983, when the NES first released, was in a bit of a dire state. The industry had not long crashed, and many consumers just didn’t see themselves getting back into a hobby that had received negative press. So, Nintendo, the clever little scamps, pitched themselves as a toy manufacturer and gave us R.O.B with our new videogame machines to alter public perception of the console and voila! The kids all wanted a Nintendo.
Now Nintendo only made two compatible games for R.O.B, so he mostly just sat in the cupboard while everyone played Mario. If there was ever a proponent for a robot uprising, it’s R.O.B.
I keep wanting to refer to as the Power Fist but then I remembered that’s the nickname for my friend who still hasn’t moved out of his mum’s house and always smells a bit like beef stew.
Released in 1989, the glove has NES style controls on the forearm and is everything you would expect such a product to look like. Futuristic and yet bulky in that way anything made in the 80’s was. Like R.O.B, only two games were released and they fared poorly. The Power Glove’s biggest claim to fame was in The Wizard, a 1989 movie which featured a suspiciously abundant amount of product placement for Nintendo, where one of the characters named Lucas says, “I love the Power Glove… it’s so bad.” Too right, mate.
Moving forward to 1990, the Laser Scope was an accessory released for just one game, Laser Invasion. The device, essentially a headset where users viewed the game through a crosshair and it also had a microphone, which enabled voice activation. So, when you say fire, it says “how hard.” I mean, it doesn’t. Apparently, it hardly worked at all.
If anything, I would love to see one of these things be modified to activate whenever anyone says, “I’MMA CHARGING MY LAZER.” A nice throwback to an old, old meme, for all you kids.
Wii Vitality Sensor
There was a time when Nintendo cared about the wellbeing of all its players – both mentally and physically. Remember when they released those brain train games and the Wii Fit franchise? Do you remember standing on that Wii balance board, waggling your hips to some obnoxious tune, mimicking an onscreen Mii hula-hoop. Conversely, do you remember what it was like to have dignity? No? Not surprised, mate. Not one bit.
The Wii Vitality Sensor, a device which checked your pulse, was an extension of this temporary philosophy over at Nintendo. Oddly, this is an accessory that never came out but was hyped by Nintendo at E3 2009. The company touted it as one of their next big movers but were vague when asked what it would actually mean for Nintendo and its consumers, saying we would hear more in “the future.” But the future never came and the device was canned in 2013, having never seen widespread release. When questioned, then President of Nintendo, the late Saturo Iwata, said that during testing, it only worked with 90 out of 100 people, which wasn’t satisfactory.
The causation of migraines and seizures, the Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s foray into the VR scene back in 1995 and is a product the company never really talks about. The headset was a flop and there are some pretty clear reasons why:
The device itself could only be set up on a table-top where the headset was perched on a tripod-like stand and you would look through it like binoculars. The games displayed in a garish, red and black contrast and, while Nintendo released more games for the Virtual Boy than almost any other peripheral, they were a bit naff. It was a novel idea by Nintendo and ahead of its time by just over 20 years ( The HTC Vive released
in 2016), but it was let down by poor-design – both aesthetically and technically – which led to the Virtual Boy being discontinued in 1996.
Nintendo have always been a company up for a bit of experimentation with its product line. It speaks to their history as a company. They began in 1889 as a playing card company and expanded into the toy manufacturing industry in the 1950’s, even trying their hand at opening a ‘love hotel,’ a TV network and even sold instant rice before settling on videogames in the 1970’s and never looking back. This sort of experimentation and innovation is a part of their heritage and, despite the numerous failings, has led to their single greatest success. Nintendo Labo may look ridiculous for the older gamers who just want to play a bit of Mario or Doom on their Switch, but Labo is Nintendo doing what they’ve always done: Throwing a myriad of stuff at a wall to see what sticks.