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Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Nintendo Labo Entering Virtual Reality

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Nintendo really is entering virtual reality after all.

Normally, if a KoopaTV article has the name “Nintendo Labo” in the title, you may expect hysteria on my part. However, I'm going to reserve that for a future article, and just deal with virtual reality discussion.

With that said, Nintendo has just announced the fourth Nintendo Labo Toy-Con kit: The Nintendo Labo VR Kit. That's VR for Virtual Reality, a hot technology in general that is seeing its way into a lot of non-gaming settings. Virtual Reality really started getting its popularity as a gaming technology, but I don't think gamers really care about it anymore.

Interestingly enough, I've already made at least two references to Nintendo and Virtual Reality on KoopaTV, and both are extremely on-topic to this new Labo announcement.

The first article was entitled, Should Nintendo Go Into Virtual Reality? Written three years ago, March 2016. In that article, I stated a number of important points.

Nintendo, at that time, was internally experimenting with virtual reality. The article quotes another article stating that in 2015, Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime said that virtual reality technology in gaming is not fun, and it's not social, and were Nintendo to get into the virtual reality scene, they'd set out to change that. Specifically, Reggie is quoted as saying...
“We have knowledge of the technical space, and we've been experimenting with this for a long, long time. What we believe is that, in order for this technology to move forward, you need to make it fun and you need to make it social. [... B]ased on what I've seen to date, it's not fun, and it's not social. It's just tech.” [emphasis mine]
If you take a look at the Nintendo press release about the Nintendo Labo VR Kit, you'll see those key vocabulary words:
“Nintendo Labo: VR Kit encourages passing around the Toy-Con creations among a group of people so everyone in the room can easily join in on the fun. To help encourage this social gameplay, players simply slip the Nintendo Switch console into the Toy-Con VR Goggles and hold it up to their eyes to explore numerous games and experiences – no head strap needed. ” [emphasis mine] 

I'm aware that a gaming company calling their product fun in their own press release isn't a deep, insightful observation. However, it should be noted that Reggie wasn't just spouting unrehearsed gibberish. Nintendo's messaging on Virtual Reality has been remarkably consistent for four years now, so when Reggie says they've been experimenting with it for a long time, he's right. This is all planned. They probably didn't know in 2015 that their Virtual Reality efforts would end up as a Nintendo Labo product, but their framework has been planned and unchanged.

Nintendo Virtual Reality Labo Boy timeline research 2019
My timeline of Nintendo and Virtual Reality, updated for 2019.
Like its 2016 incarnation, this exists for the sake of having a picture.

You can also see that as a commentary of how little the Virtual Reality gaming market has managed to overcome their problems, given how four years (and more) is an eternity in the fast-moving videogame industry. It's very ripe for a Nintendo-lead disruption. Whether that's worth disrupting or perhaps it's better off leaving Virtual Reality dead is another conversation, and I think Nintendo placing this onto the Labo family of products indicates that they're not trying to be too risky here.

...Alright, with all of that said, here's the second article. It was back when the Labo was being introduced in January 2018. I wrote, with obviously poor foresight,
“[The Labo is] not a virtual reality experience or an augmented reality one, either. You're just building your own controller with infrared strips on it, while using an interactive digital service manual during construction.”

Nintendo Labo VR Kit is expected to release on April 12. Expect much more energy and hysterics upon that time, including how it's a danger to the universe.

Ludwig has been strangely calm and level-headed all week. Maybe there's something going on in his life and this is a cry for help. Have your views on Virtual Reality changed at all since the KoopaTV article three years ago? Ludwig has actually tried a Virtual Reality device since then, and he didn't feel good at all after doing so.

The Labo VR Kit has released, and here is why it's evil.


  1. The main thing here is that this VR add-on is fairly low-risk and low-cost. I don't expect it to be particularly good either. But by now Switch is pretty solidly established as successful, and Labo as not very successful, so if Labo VR flops(as it probably will) it won't really matter.

    1. Right, they can say the Switch/Nintendo can do VR stuff without putting that much effort into it.

      And if it beats their expectations, well, hey, even better.

      After planning this social and fun form of Virtual Reality for years, this could work as a market test to see if Nintendo's VR vision is actually viable and people want it, or they'll need to go back to the drawing board.


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