Recently, Nintendo announced the upcoming release of an add-on for its most recent gaming device, the Switch. The accessory pack is known as Nintendo Labo, and it’s… made of cardboard.
Yes, that’s right. Cardboard.
The idea is that users will be able to build physical objects that change the way they interact with the Switch. For example, the informational page on Nintendo’s website advertises the ability to create a piano, a fishing pole, or a motorbike, among other things. Each of these new “Toy-Cons,” as Nintendo calls them (a modification of the term Joy-Con, the name given to the Switch’s detachable controllers), has a corresponding minigame that uses some aspect of the cardboard toy (the pressing of the piano keys, the reeling on the fishing rod, etc.) to work. All of the technology that makes the toys work with the minigames comes from the Switch; Joy-Cons are inserted into the various cardboard creations and use infrared motion sensors and “HD rumble feature” to interpret and implement users’ commands, according to an article on nintendolife.com.
One of the most common questions that potential customers have been posing since the announcement is whether it is really worth $70. It is made of cardboard, after all.
The cynical answer is that if you are willing to pay $70 for it (and certainly many people would pay $70 for anything Nintendo released), then yes it is worth $70.
The less cynical answer is… well, the same, really. It is important to remember that the Labo kit is not just cardboard, string, and plastic; it also comes with the software for the games and the experience of building and customizing the pieces. The value to consumers depends heavily on software development and how much players value the building experience, rather than on the cost of the production of the cardboard and string.
Still, $70 for a one-time building experience and some minigames? It is hard to picture applications for some of the objects that extend beyond one minigame (although Nintendo did manage to find multiple uses for the GameCube’s Donkey Kong Bongos controller, and many people are happy to purchase little plastic steering wheels for Mario Kart, which have no other use), and minigames tend not to keep players’ attention for very long (be honest, how many people play Wii sports again after getting at least two other games?).
It is also important to note that $70 is just the price for one kit, and the less expensive one at that. There are two kits being released in the spring, and the other costs $80. Presumably, Nintendo already has several more in the works, so that, in total, Labo will be a several hundred dollar investment.
Then again, is that not true of most toy or video game collections? It may be necessary to ignore the tendency to think cardboard automatically equates to a cheap product overall, and instead focus on the software and the way Labo incorporates real, physical toys into its hardware. It is not really $70 for cardboard, it is $70 for game software with cardboard on the side.