Nintendo has seen huge success with the Switch, which has become the fastest selling game console of this generation. Nintendo has brought its traditional “try anything once” attitude to the Switch with accessories like the cardboard-based Labo. Now, Labo is evolving into a VR headset. It’s like Google Cardboard for your Switch.
This is a bold move for Nintendo, considering the unmitigated disaster that was the Virtual Boy back in the mid-90s. If you’ve used Google Cardboard, you’ll be able to imagine what it’s like using Labo VR. The undocked Switch console plugs into the cardboard frame, which includes a pair of magnifying lenses. There’s no head strap to hold it in place, not that you’d want that because cardboard can be hard on the skin.
The set comes with accessories that act as bizarre controllers for upcoming VR games. There’s a blaster, camera, elephant, bird, and wind pedal. You plug a Joy Con into each one to control the action. For example, the controller plugs into the barrel of the blaster, utilizing the motion controls for aiming.
The Labo VR kit goes on Sale April 12 in two variants. There’s an $ 80 version that has the main VR goggle apparatus, as well as all the add-on components. The cheaper $ 40 bundle comes with the goggle section and the blaster only. You can buy expansion sets later that add the other accessories to your goggles, too.
The Switch won’t be the only modern console with VR capabilities, but it’s the only one that can do it cheaply. For example, Sony’s PlayStation VR headset costs $ 200, and that’s after several significant price cuts. We don’t know what sort of software experience Nintendo has in mind, though. The kits are listed as ages 6 and up, so the games will probably skew younger.
The main concern is that the Switch’s screen is only just good enough when you’re playing a regular game. It’s a 6-inch 720p LCD, which wouldn’t be usable for mobile VR on a phone. With the magnifying lenses, the pixel density is going to be poor, and LCDs are usually too slow to offer smooth motion in VR. Nintendo has either figured out how to get around this, or it’s going to give a lot of kids upset stomachs. Either way, Labo VR is something to watch.