Nintendo Labo and the Toy-To-Life Concept

Jul 28, 2019 | 1 Votes by jose 10 rate Your vote
Nintendo has made good use of the Toy-To-Life gaming concept by taking it a huge step further. Let's take a look at what they did. WWGDB - Nintendo Labo and the Toy-To-Life Concept

In 2007, a different kind of game was released through the efforts of three companies, Mattel, Arkadium, and Radica. The game was called U.B. Funkeys and it used a hub or portal in order to play. The game used toy characters called Funkeys which where connected to the hub which was a actually a USB device connected to the PC. The Funkeys where sort of Pokemon like character toys that contained memory chips which unlocked new areas in the game as it was of the adventure MMORPG variety. Players had to purchase and collect the toy characters in order to unlock and use the equivalent characters in the game.

FunKeys Town

U.B. Funkeys started a new game genre which was termed Toy-To- Life gaming where actual toys where needed to play a video game. Through the years, various Toy-To-Life games where released, some lasted only a few years while others continue on till today. The most notable is Skylanders which came out in 2011 and plays a lot like Funkeys with a different game story and of course characters. Skylanders is still very much active till today while unfortunately Funkeys closed down in 2010.

Other Toy-To-Life games include Disney Infinity which lasted from 2013 to 2016 and featured both Marvel and Star Wars characters. Another is Lego Dimensions which was operated from 2015 to 2017 and used actual Lego toys to play the game. Players had to assemble Lego figurines by unlocking levels in the game which showed them the instructions on how to assemble the toys. The game portal or hub was also a Lego toy that the player had to assemble as well. Sadly in 2017, Warner Bros. officially announced that they where discontinuing the product and game.

There are other newer games which have come out but one more game worth mentioning is Nintendo's own Amiibo platform released in 2014 and available till now. The game features Nintendo figurines and characters as well as third party characters that have appeared in Nintendo games. These toys can then be used with many Nintendo games and function as memory save devices for player data and in-game progress.

Now that we have an idea of what Toy-To-Life gaming is all about, let's now focus on Nintendo. The company has brought the game genre and concept a step further when it released the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Kits in 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. Toy-Con are Toy-To-Life unique contraptions that work and where designed specifically for the Switch game console. Now these are not toys that you buy and plug to a hub but kits with several small components and a bunch of perforated cardboard that you will have to assemble by folding and inserting (no need for screws or gluing). If one grew up in the 70's and 80’s, one will remember the soda cardboard assembled airplane where you inserted the soda bottle cap or tansan into the plane, tied it to a piece of string and whirled it around you. Almost half a century later with way more advanced electronic toys but still the same cardboard core concept.

Nintendo Switch

The Labo kits are innovative as Toy-To-Life games as they are not only fun but educational as well. Though recommended for 6 years and above, the Switch player will have to assemble the cardboard kits and use them in conjunction with the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers that act as sensors and vibrators necessary for the toys to function as well as the game or application software running on the switch itself. This means slotting the Switch and the controllers on the different parts or locations on the cardboard toy.

The act of assembly and following of instructions given by running or plugging in the specific kit software cartridge on the Switch provides a great educational opportunity for the one(s) doing the assembly. A special application called the Toy-Con Garage is included that introduces and teaches the principles of Programming by allowing users to program their own Toy-Cons with simple commands whether they use the Labo Kits or their own materials. Commands are commonly executed by sensing an input and providing a resulting output. Logic decisions that function like if-then statements can be placed between them. An example would be programming the Toy-Con to read a trigger input or key-press. A decision in between as to the number of presses and a resulting output like the Switch screen lighting up or the Joy-Con Controller vibrating or blasting a sound.

Toy-Con Garage

The educational features of the Labo Kits are not limited to assembly or programming alone. The Nintendo Labo has two major kits. These are the Variety Kit and the Giant Robot Kit. Recently, The Labo VR Kit was released but then VR is considered to be more of a specialized gaming platform that stands by itself. Speaking of VR, let's tackle it first.

VR is said to cause some visual and cortex related side effects for some users especially the very young. To this, Nintendo has added a slew of warnings and caution to all users of the VR kit regardless of age. VR is awesome as we all know that specially when you see your favorite Mario, Link and Princess Zelda, blast invading aliens or feed hungry Hippos in VR via the Switch screen, but you can't stay long in VR like you can on front of your PC screen playing CSGO or DOTA2 all day. The Labo VR games themselves will alert you (in-game) when it's time to take a break from VR. With the basic VR kit (Yes, they will be releasing several), you get to build a blaster shotgun style rifle where you will attach the VR Goggle, (kind of like a Google Cardboard) where you insert the Switch and use it like a scope to see into the VR world of the game you are playing. The key once again is in the combination of the Switch, the game or app and the Joy-Con Controllers working in tandem with the cardboard assembled Toy-Con to provide the overall experience.

With the Variety Kit, you can assemble five Toy-Cons from it. The first are two remote controlled cars. Each cardboard car uses vibrations from the Joy-Con controllers to move and steer them while the Switch acts as the hand-held remote control device. The game app also allows the cars to follow certain targets by using the right Joy-Cons IR cartridge.

For those who are musically inclined and would dabble in composing a tune or so, a Piano Toy-Con can be assembled. This one uses the Joy-Cons IR sensors to detect the keys being hit. It isn't much with just one octave but cardboard as may be, with the Switch inserted at the top, you've got one heck of a musical instrument and sound effects machine.

A fishing rod contraption using the Joy-Cons on the reel and handle of the rod provide a good simulation of catching fish so one does not have to pack-up and go on an outing by the lake for those who love the sport. You can always buy Tuna at the grocery and stack it in the fridge and cook it after playing your switch fishing game.

A house Toy-Con for those who love miniature houses and probably young ladies who love putting dolls in them. Besides, they're probably too young to play with a VR blaster anyway. With this, you can fill up your mini mansion with a lot of interactive stuff by running the game on the Switch.

Finally, for those who love bicycles, motorbikes and the Kamen Rider series you can assemble your own Motorbike Toy-Con. Just insert the Joy-Cons into the handlebars on either side of the Switch for steering and you're all set. Don't like Kamen Rider, well you can always be Street Hawk or play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Moto Rush GT.

Labo Robo Kit

Then there's the Robot Kit. This is probably the hardest to assemble as it would take one a minimum of 3-4 hours to complete. Essentially you put together a sort of cardboard suit that you wear. Composed of a visor and a backpack where the Joy-Cons are inserted, the sensors will be able to pick-up your movements and relay it to the robot game running on your Switch. If you move, the robot moves, if you stomp, your giant Mech will do the same and if you raise your hands you fly in the air jet-pack style. If you've got someone with the same set-up you can actually play Mech-Warrior- BattleTech in your living room. You can even transform into a tank if you prefer a ground based armored fight. Now that's what you call cardboard combat. It may not be easy to assemble but lots of fun to play with.

Now these again are just the main kits as there are others like a Vehicle Kit and even an Elephant Art and Camera Kit as Nintendo promises more to come. Besides, Nintendo has already sold around 1.39 million Labo kits so it would be definitely best to swing with the momentum. Replacement cardboard parts are available for those who need it and the company has been working with the Institute of Play as well to bring the Labo Kits into elementary schools. The target is to reach at least 2000 students for the 2018-2019 school year. As Nintendo will be providing the Switch and the Kits, the IOP will be developing the lesson plans for teachers.

With the Switch Labo Kits, Nintendo has managed to bring innovation into the games industry and into education as well. It has turned a game genre initially created as sort of a Marketing Strategy into something more which not only benefits the product life span of the Switch console but ads value to the use of it as well. After all, both Mario and Luigi are builders and puzzle solvers by profession.

Nintendo Labo Kits: Make, Play and Discover …

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