"A lot of people said it was a ‘very Nintendo’ product."
-Nintendo director Shinya Takahashi recalls the initial reaction to Labo.
Nintendo posted its quarterly financial results late last month, but the investor Q&A session that follows the report is often loaded with additional insight into Nintendo's inner workings and decisions.
Following only weeks after the announcement of Nintendo Labo, this quarter’s session touched on some interesting things about both the Labo build-a-kit accessory pack and the unique Joy-Con controllers it was created to supplement.
For example, Nintendo director and managing executive officer Shinya Takahashi says that the idea for Labo emerged from the idea of setting the Switch’s detachable Joy-Con controllers (which he describes as “a mass of sensors”) into external attachments.
But, as Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto explains later in the Q&A, the original idea that blossomed into Joy-Cons and Labo is much older than that. Miyamoto explains that the seed was first planted back when the Wii launched alongside games with basic motion control functionality.
“[The] Wii is a much-talked-about example of Nintendo’s experience of success, but the developers began to rethink their hardware design after receiving feedback from global users of Wii Sports and Wii Fit, saying things like the Wii Remote should have had different design features, or should have been small enough to attach to the leg,” said Miyamoto.
“Because of that rethinking, our developers thought constructively about the advantages of miniaturizing the game controller, and when the technology advanced to give controllers greater functionality in a smaller size, it was not lost on them that here was an opportunity to create a console-type game system that could be carried around like a handheld video game system. That led to the development of Joy-Con, and to the concept of combining Joy-Con with cardboard constructs.”
The idea for using cardboard only came around recently, but Nintendo believes the crafting material is a good fit for the project for a variety of reasons. After playing around with some early prototypes, Takahashi says that staff quickly realized that the arts-and-crafts background of the material feeds into the idea that Labo should be both fun to assemble and fun to use in its finished state.
“We realized that the trial-and-error process of attaining a finished project was itself extremely fun, in addition to playing with the product.” Says Takahashi. “That led to our concept for Nintendo Labo being developed as something that people could enjoy in all of its aspects, not just in playing with the finished product, but also in making changes along the way and after it is complete, and in understanding the mechanics”