Nintendo will soon make its grand re-entrance into the world of virtual reality (VR) after a 24-year absence. On March 6, the Japanese gaming company announced it would be releasing a new cardboard VR kit as part of its Labo line. The Labo VR starter set will allow purchasers to transform a Nintendo Switch controller into a set of VR goggles. The kit also comes with a cardboard blaster and an alien invasion mini-game. The starter kit will cost $39.99.
Nintendo will also release two “Toy-Con” attachable expansion sets for the VR goggles. The first set comes with a camera for an underwater game and an elephant trunk. And the second includes a bird attachment that works with a flying game and a standalone car pedal. The expansion sets’ mini-games titles and specs are unknown, but both will retail for $20 each.
Lastly, Nintendo will also release a Labo kit that includes the starter set and both expansion packs for $79.99. The Labo VR line will be available for purchase on April 12.
Nintendo’s First Regrettable Foray into Virtual Reality
As elder Millennials will never be able to forget, the Labo VR is not Nintendo’s first virtual reality headset. In 1995, Nintendo released a heartbreakingly bad 32-bit console called the Virtual Boy. The company promised the near $200 system would provide “immersive” gaming experiences, but it most definitely did not.
In a rare Nintendo design misstep, the Virtual Boy was comprised of a clunky head-mounted display and a hard to use controller. It’s supposedly innovative visuals scheme was a monochrome version of 3D that felt unconvincing even back in the mid-90s. And to add insult to injury, using the system caused some players to experience serious motion sickness.
Nintendo had high hopes for its new system despite its seemingly obvious flaws. The company spent $25 million promoting the Virtual Boy and expected to move 3 million units in its first year of release. Instead, it sold less than 800,000 units worldwide and was scrapped less than a year after its introduction.
Even in a post-SouljaGame world, the Virtual Boy stands out as one of the most embarrassing flops in video game history.
The Nintendo Labo VR will be Good, not Great
Although it’s best to reserve judgment until release day, Nintendo’s new kit seems like a good but not great addition to the VR landscape. As the Switch only has a 720p LCD screen, the Labo VR looks like another Google Cardboard. Unless Nintendo releases a low-persistence OLED Switch controller, no one should buy it expecting a groundbreaking gaming experience.
As long as the Labo VR does not cause children across the world to get nauseous when they use it, it will be Nintendo’s best ever VR offering.
Instead, gamers should take it for what it is; an extension of the kid-focused construction-toy initiative Nintendo began when it introduced the first Labo kits last year. For Generation Alpha kids, the tactile interactive aspect of the Labo sets will be a nice change of pace. Meanwhile, grownups can look to Oculus and HTC for the 3D experience they were promised as children.