Nintendo Labo released in late April to what many call middling sales. But does it really matter?
Consumers and armchair analysts can argue all they want about the merits of Nintendo selling cardboard. Included with each Labo kit is the ability to produce Toy-Con and even make your own custom creations. However, in terms of sales it would seem Labo hasn’t hit home.
Around the internet on message boards you can see examples of “I told you so” and “Well who thought $80 cardboard would sell?” and this attitude is both unfairly dismissive and forgets the history of the game industry.
We Have Been Here Before!
Cast your minds back to the PlayStation 2, a system on top of the world. What do you do when you have success like that? Find new ways to use to device you have already sold to people. Sony did just that with the EyeToy! This is an odd little peripheral that projected your body into the game for what was at the time the height of motion control in gaming.
Of course people don’t remember it now. It existed though. The EyeToy had games exclusive to it, but it required the PS2 to function. It was a platform on top of an already successful platform. A “Sub-Platform”. A peripheral.
Jump ahead to the PS3. Despite early struggles it ultimately became a respected and well selling console. What would a company do with a device already in homes? Introduce a peripheral, with exclusive games, but still tied to the core hardware. Introduce both PS Move and Wonderbook.
Some of these peripherals did fail…
You won’t remember Wonderbook. It would be a challenge to find one these days, but the PS Move lived on and still is available as a peripheral. Of course the thing to remember is sometimes these peripherals will fail.
But why will they fail? Well they simply don’t catch on. A peripheral has a maximum base to sell to that is equal to that of the platform it needs to even function. So for something like Kinect, it could only sell to, at most, the total amount of Xbox 360 users.
Price and purpose: If a peripheral is too expensive it obviously won’t catch on especially if the perceived value is low.
Some Peripherals Do Succeed
Sometimes one has to take a look back to see the failures before judging the present successes. PlayStation VR is a new way to experience video games and has numerous exclusive titles. It also has a very hefty price point to enter. On top of that, it needs the PS4 to even work! PlayStation VR, for all it is its own platform, remains a sub-platform wholly dependant on PS4.
How did it succeed? It was periphery to a system already in homes. It gave a new way to play games. A new experience. But one thing it doesn’t do is detract from the system it is attached to.
This is the thing with peripherals. They need to be understood and accepted as supplements to the platform they need to function. They can offer new takes on existing experiences like VR or offer new experiences all together. But generally no one should expect a sub-platform to sell like a new platform.
So How Does This Matter To Labo?
Simple! Nintendo Labo is a peripheral. The fact that it has multiple kits under one name should tell you future kits will (Probably) exist. Additionally, it is entirely dependant on Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Labo lets people use the Switch in new ways. It is an educational tool teaching engineering, creativity and programming in an accessible way.
Toy-Con Garage lets people learn and understand basic programming. The technology behind making the cardboard creations work is simple yet technical.
Labo as a peripheral is ideal. It does something different from the already hot core device, to bring in other people. It’s only crime is potentially price.
So What If Labo Fails?
If Labo fails then we simply move on. In the same we moved on from weird Wii accessories and Wonderbook and EyeToy and Kinect. A peripheral failing isn’t the end of the world. After all, it never hurts to try.
To loop back to the earlier dismissive comments – if that attitude prevailed we would likely see peripherals die out. The fear of trying and failing would end with not trying at all. It is better to try and then fail than not try at all. A peripheral can’t damage a platform. If the peripheral is marketed well then it can stand as its own thing and thrive as a supplement to a system.
But if it does come to fail, well the platform it is attached to didn’t fail. Only the peripheral. The platform did well enough beforehand to make this venture worthwhile.
It Is Harmless!
Following on from yesterday and a discussion about mid-tier games not needing to sell millions, Labo is in the same position. It doesn’t need to be PSVR or WiiFit. If handled sensibly, if marketed to the right people, Labo will do just fine.
There is no harm or shame in trying something new with your existing hit platform. By being dependant on something that already exists, success or failure really doesn’t matter, so long as it isn’t incredibly expensive to develop the peripheral. But the success of the base system doesn’t guarantee success for the peripheral either!
To conclude, it all doesn’t matter. Success or failure the Nintendo Switch will continue on its path just like the PS2 did, or the SNES with its add-ons. Labo ultimately needs Switch. Switch doesn’t need Labo.
But it is always nice to have something different there to supplement too.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this piece please share on social media via the buttons below, and let me know I shouldn’t play with cardboard! Happy Gaming!