Nintendo Labo Started as a 3D Printed Plastic Nose Picker Game

Nintendo Labo Started as a 3D Printed Plastic Nose Picker Game

Greatness from small beginnings.

Tomorrow sees the release of Nintendo Labo, the company's do-it-yourself (DIY) cardboard toy accessories. The idea behind Labo is that players can build cardboard accessories for their Joy-cons. But to get to that point the team built some wild prototypes including a 3D printed nose picking game. What's more, the original vision imagined plastic accessories instead of the eco-friendly cardboard Labo ships in.

In an extensive interview with the team behind Labo, Nintendo Labo director Mr. Sakaguchi originally envisioned the final products would be plastic out of fear that cardboard would be too fragile. What happened was during prototyping, the team wanted to utilize the Switch controller's IR motion controller. But the problem is that cameras collecting data from cameras can be unreliable due to how players wield them. However the team came to a conclusion: restrict the camera.

"Eventually we realized that we could get the performance we wanted if we enclosed the camera in a box," explained Sakaguchi. And once the enclosure system was figured it was time to prototype a game, and the team tested the new enclosures by building a game around the smallest enclosure they could imagine: a nostril.

Nintendo's nose-picking Labo prototype

As Sakaguchi explains, "It might look ridiculous at first, but we were testing an important idea. You see, we wanted to start with the smallest enclosure we could think of... In this case, the IR Motion Camera inside the box registers movement and translates it to the finger on the screen."

Once the nostril prototype worked, the team went the opposite direction and tried to imagine the biggest enclosure they could think of. So they raided the office closet and built a tank setup using cardboard boxes and office supplies.

"Since our last project was about discovering how small we could make something, we wanted to see what the maximum size we could work with would be. We decided to go to the packaging material storage room and look for materials. We came back with a bunch of cardboard and used it to make this tank thing."

The Nintendo Labo tank prototype

However, despite the intricacies of the tank prototype, Sakaguchi was worried that the tank would break easily and so the final product was still imagined as being built from plastic. But lifting the box off the floor would keep the box accessory safe. This directly led to Labo's Robo-kit design. What's more, it helped the team realize that cardboard was a viable (and cheaper) alternative to 3D printed plastic.

Lucky for the earth too. As we now know, we definitely don't need more plastic accessories taking up our gaming rooms. However, I'm kind of bummed we won't be getting a nose picking Labo accessory in our Variety packs.

And Nintendo Labo quickly evolved to beyond just cardboard accessories, with players able to program their own custom Labo games. For more on Nintendo Labo check out our Nintendo Labo guide.

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Matt Kim

News Editor

Matt Kim is a former freelance writer who's covered video games and digital media. He likes video games as spectacle and is easily distracted by bright lights or clever bits of dialogue. He also once wrote about personal finance, but that's neither here nor there.

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