Nintendo Labo: What is it, how much is it, and when can I get it?

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When the Nintendo Labo was revealed it blew our minds a little bit. How does it work? When can we get the kits? And will our cats sit on the boxes for all eternity? Pitched as a "new interactive experience" for the Nintendo Switch, "specially crafted for kids and those who are kids at heart", no-one quite expected the Japanese gaming giant to pull build-your-own cardboard controllers out of the bag - of course, the internet went mad

With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about the Nintendo Labo, from what the heck it is, to how much it'll cost and when you can get it. 

But first, watch the trailer below and prepare to fully appreciate the magic of something as simple as cardboard:

What is the Nintendo Labo?

"Imagine being able to turn a simple piece of cardboard into almost anything". That's what Nintendo is suggesting is possible with Labo. That's not quite the case, but the kits are capable of creating real world items on Switch's screen with the power of build-your-own accessories made out of special card material. 

The Nintendo Labo kits come with a game cartridge that pops straight into your Switch and acts as your instruction manual for building the constructions, which Nintendo is calling Toy-Cons. You know, like the Joy-Cons? You'll follow on-screen instructions to punch out the cardboard pieces from the sheets, and fix them together with the pre-made tabs or included bits of string, eyelets, rubber bands and other fixing bits. It's like Nintendo's version of Lego Dimensions, but with cardboard rather than plastic bricks and characters. 

Then you'll be slotting your Joy-Cons into these cardboard creations, with the game then converting to an actual game that you can play, or in the case of some of the creations, control. In the announcement trailer, there are papery robotic bugs to control, fish to catch with your newly built cardboard fishing rod and even a robot to control by donning various cardboard armour elements. 

It's basically cardboard Lego, but instead of building houses or monsters, you're creating peripherals for the Switch. Gone are the days of plastic accessories along the lines of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, at least for Nintendo anyway (Mario Kart steering wheels notwithstanding). This is a way to innovate on the existing Switch concept - already a smart bit of kit - but in a way that's easy to make, easy to create, and easy to replace and recycle. Environmentally friendly gaming, eh?

The fact Labo is such simple fun means it's aimed at kids, but there's also the fact it's an introduction to coding and also engineering. You'll be able to see just how everything works together, both in the real world and using the Switch. On-screen you can take a tour around a cross-section of each model, watch how all the parts move in tandem, using all the string and tape you used earlier. It's very much not just a toy (con), but also an educational device for young minds. 

There's also another brand new feature called the Toy-Con Garage, which is part of every Toy-Con kit. It allows you to try your hand at inventing, by doing some (very basic) coding. By choosing between simple inputs and outputs, you can invent your own original Toy-Con experiences. Take a look at the trailer above from 2.54 onwards to get some examples of what games you could create. 

When can I get it?

Nintendo Labo

You won't have long to wait until you can get your hands on the Nintendo Labo. The release date is set for April 20 in the US, and April 27 across Europe. Initially only two kits will be available, but that's plenty to be getting on with. 

What Toy-Con kits can I pre-order?

We'll be keeping you updated on where and how you can pre-order Nintendo Labo, but here's what you'll be able to buy when it does arrive in April. 

Toy-Con 01 - Variety Kit

The Variety Kit gets you access to five Toy-Con kits: RC Cars (two cars included), the Fishing Rod, House, Motorbike and Piano. 

The RC cars get a Joy-Con each inside them, and then you use touch controls on the Switch's screen to control them. They actually move using the vibrations inside the Joy-Cons themselves, and the camera inside the Joy-Con allows the car to go into autopilot and move to a point on its own. 

The Fishing Rod comes with a wheel that's attached by string to a cradle that holds the Switch. The game involves catching exotic fish that swim across the Switch's screen by casting your do and unwinding the reel to lower the hook. You'll know when a fish is on the hook, because the fishing line will vibrate, letting you know it's time to reel it in. Amazingly, you can even cut shapes in paper and then scan them into the Switch to make your own fish. Prepare for Fishy McFish Face ASAP. 

The house is like an interactive dolls out, where you can interact feed and play games with a cute creature that's shown on the Switch's screen. You insert different blocks to trigger various elements and transform the house, in this elaborate tamagotchi simulator.

You insert a Joy-Con into the handlebars to drive a motorbike shown on the Switch's screen. You can twist the handle to activate the throttle and then lean your body or turn the handlebars to control your direction. It's basically like being in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe but driving yourself. You can even scan in shapes to create your own tracks, or draw your own using the included mini bike. Weather, track size, level and more can also be adjusted. 

The piano comes with 13 playable keys, which you can sue to create your own music. There are even different knobs you can insert that create new sound effects and tones. Acoustic mode is particularly interesting, as you can use the vibrations to create musical sounds using other items, like an empty box. The piano 'game' comes with a recording studio too, so you can make your own tunes. 

In the box you'll find the following:

  • cardboard sheet x28 (includes extra sheet for customisation)
  • reflective sticker sheet x3
  • sponge sheet x3
  • orange string
  • blue string
  • grey eyelet set
  • blue eyelet set
  • large rubber band x2 + spares
  • small rubber band x6 + spares

Toy-Con 02 - Robot Kit

As the title suggests, this kit only gets you the robot Toy-Con kit, with the accompanying software. However, it does eventually become a multi-part kit, with backpack, visor, feet hooks and controllers. Using these you'll assume control of the robot across several 'experiences', including destroying buildings and UFOs, Godzilla-style. There's even a flying mode, if you outstretch your arms, a car mode with laser beams if you crouch, and a supersize mode if you fist bump the air. Pull down the visor to go into first-person mode too. There are more abilities to learn as you complete challenges.

It's worth noting that it looks like you might need four Joy-Cons in order to use the Robot Kit properly, as in the image below, you'll see there's a Joy-Con for each foot, one in the visor and another in the backpack.

Aside from the software, in the box you'll also find:

  • cardboard sheet x19
  • cardstock sheets x4
  • reflective sticker sheet
  • orange string x2
  • blue string x2
  • large grey canvas strap
  • medium grey canvas strap
  • small grey canvas straps x2
  • grey eyelet set x10
  • orange eyelet set x2

How much is the Nintendo Labo?

Although European prices haven't yet been set, the US Nintendo Labo price for both the upcoming Toy-Con kits has been confirmed. The Variety Kit is $69.99/£59.99 while the Robot Kit is a little more expensive at $79.99/£69.99. The customization kit of stickers and tape is $9.99/£8.99. 

Of course, for that price you're not just getting an arts and crafts kit. You're also getting the games that accompany each Toy-Con and the software that helps you build it and see what's going on inside.

What happens if it breaks?

Although Nintendo hasn't actually confirmed it anywhere, according to a report from the Guardian, Nintendo has plans to offer replacement cardboard kits and templates for anyone who breaks their Toy-Cons. Of course, the whole point of it being cardboard is that you can repair them with tape and glue, but also decorate them to your hearts content.