These Brilliantly Bizarre Cardboard Toys Are Why Nintendo Matters

Since the dawn of time, hot takes have pondered: What if Nintendo went third-party? Sega’s financial stumbles forced the company to abandon making hardware, and whenever Nintendo’s had problems, it’s seemed reasonable to wonder if Nintendo would meet the same fate. Mario, like Sonic, would one day stand in front of a Sony (or Microsoft) logo, and Nintendo innovation would be reduced to the software it made.

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I’m so freaking excited about Labo, you have no idea. In terms of introducing kids to the idea of tinkering and combining different areas of knowledge the idea that you put your video game controller into a cardboard mechanism you built and it controls the game is sort of breathtaking.

It doesn’t matter that they’re just instruction kits, the core concept pushes the idea that things combine in unexpected ways in a way that’s going to blow some minds open


I love the idea, I mainly just have some non-hyperbolic skepticism about the concept. I have pre-school and elementary school kids. They love to build, draw, and play games. I should be the perfect market for this thing. But I also know my three boys will carefully build, love, and then destroy these things playing with them in about the space of a week. Their likely target audience (pre-teen kids) are whirlwinds that demolish toys both by accident and on purpose.

And while I’m not above teaching them to be careful with their things, I’m also not going to spend $70 on cardboard designs that are just waiting to be stepped on, dropped, pulled in the wrong way, ripped, and ruined. Material that can’t hold up to rough play, fiddly tabs, strings, and expensive electronics - all the hallmarks of something that won’t survive a household with kids. It’s an expensive ask that’s inevitably going to end up in frustration and tears.

I think both sides of the coin on the issue of durability are right, it just kind of depends on the kids in question.

First of all, the $70 asking price includes the software, which is probably anywhere from $40-$60 in and of itself given this is Nintendo we’re talking about. The cardboard stuff will probably packaged separately and for much cheaper, although again with the Nintendo probably not cheap enough.

If what they’re saying is true, and the game is playable without the boxes, then it doesn’t seem like that bad of a deal if it the game is fun by itself. It’s better than buying some fiddly plastic thing for the same price and being SOL when it breaks. Some kids will treat this the right way, some won’t, and you probably know your own kid well enough to predict the future for it.

The world of kids toys and what people are willing to hand to children is baffling and has no consistent internal logic. I’ve had friends talk about how their kid will destroy this thing in minutes, meanwhile they hand their kids a $600 iPad without a second thought. I’m probably making wildly inconsistent choices for my own kid as well, so I’m not judging, it’s just fascinating to see what other people consider dealbreakers versus yourself.

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Well the nice thing about cardboard templates vs. molded plastic parts is that one is much easier to repair and replace on your own should it get broken. You won’t have to buy another $70 package if a piece bends/gets squashed/tears. Just trace out a replacement on the side of an amazon box, cut it out, and you’re back in business.

My 4-year-old son tends to be reasonably careful with stuff while he’s holding it, but as soon as he’s done, he becomes blind to everything below waist level, stepping on and crushing stuff without thinking about it even for a second. I’d much rather those things be made of cardboard than plastic like those obnoxious racing wheels, zappers, and other controller holsters like for the Wii.


Yeah, I suppose it depends on how easy/cheap the replacement is for these things. At least to me it looked fairly complicated to replace them yourself, as you can’t really design perforations or tabs with an Amazon box. But even then, coming home to kids in tears because their boxes all got ripped up and asking me to replace them is not exactly what I’m looking for in a toy.

My kids are moderately careful with their toys, but I think it’s just a little too much to expect them to keep these in working order with all the little parts/tabs/strings. Though I also have 3 active, rough-and-tumble boys that are generally running everywhere and threatening to destroy the house, so I’m in a different place than a lot of parents.

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