28 cardboard sheets. Three sponges. Two large rubber bands. One blue string. These are a few of the ingredients of what’s sure to be Nintendo’s latest hit toy: Nintendo Labo. It’s a papercraft kit that you can add on to the Nintendo Switch console, allowing you (or your kids!) to build all sorts of silly controllers to play games on the Switch’s tablet-sized screen.
That means a paper R/C car that you can drive. A paper house with little digital people inside. A paper fishing rod with a real working reel. A motorbike. A one-octave playable piano. Even a backpack that connects your arms and legs in through a complex pulley system (this one is what Nintendo has dubbed a “robot suit”).
The goal? Nintendo wants to stoke the fires on its Switch console, which is actually the fastest-selling gaming console in U.S. history. And due to that, it is doing what it always does: Pushing people to play in new ways. In this case, Labo combines papercraft and digital mini-games, blurring the lines of analog play and screenplay, making the Switch–a strange, half-portable, half-home console–even more unique.
Much like Lego’s programmable Boost kits, Nintendo will show you how to build each creation through step-by-step instructions on-screen. Then, each cardboard creation has slots for the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers–these are mini handheld remotes that have buttons, vibration, and motion sensitivity. In essence, the cardboard is an elaborate facade. It’s just cardboard, after all (though some are speculating there are more smarts inside than Nintendo is leading on). But it’s designed to activate the Joy-Con’s own sensors in concert with Nintendo’s own programs so that you can play games with paper.
The neat thing, though, is that kids will build this facade, meaning they’ll inherently learn how these creations work. It’s not quite a coding toy, no. But it looks mechanical, crafty, and most importantly, fun.
The kits will debut on April 20. A variety pack will cost $70, and the robot kit will run $80. Yes, that’s a lot to pay for some cardboard and string. (Okay, and a bit of software, too.) But as Nintendo well knows, people will dig up all the quarters they need to have fun.