Rumors of a VR-fueled Nintendo Switch app or add-on have swirled for nearly two years, with fans wondering whether such an immersive update would require more hardware or a brand-new Switch model. Turns out, the answer is something a lot simpler: a bunch of foldable cardboard.
Yes, Nintendo’s build-it-yourself Labo controller series will return on April 12 with arguably its most ambitious version yet: the Nintendo Labo VR Kit. This cardboard rig will include a plastic, face-fitting mask, complete with plastic lenses, that attaches to a Nintendo Switch in “portable” mode. This mix of face-fitting mask and lenses will translate the Switch’s 720p screen into two eye-fitting images that simulate VR in much the same way as Google Cardboard.
How that performance will compare to smartphones, however, remains to be seen, as the Switch’s LCD panel does not include the same kinds of persistence-dampening tweaks found in VR-headset panels like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. We imagine this will all still look and feel more comfortable than Nintendo’s last stab at a vision-filling headset: 1995’s Virtual Boy, which was legendary designer Gunpei Yokoi’s final creation for Nintendo before he left the company one year later.
In one major about-face for the Labo series, Nintendo’s VR Kit will launch in two flavors: a fully priced $80 kit, which comes with a range of foldable constructions, and a simpler $40 starter version, which only includes enough material to build its default, VR-simulating mask and a “blaster” mini-game add-on.
Nintendo has yet to release video examples of exactly how the games will look or function. Instead, its announcement includes the following description: “Fend off an alien invasion with the Toy-Con Blaster, visit a colorful in-game ocean and snap photos of the sea life with the Toy-Con Camera, and so much more.”
The full kit’s other add-ons include Toy-Con Elephant (which includes a lengthy, nose-attached “trunk” that players can assumedly see in their VR field-of-view), Toy-Con Bird (which appears to let players “fly” in whatever direction they face), and Toy-Con Wind Pedal (which… I mean, who knows what that’s about, but it has a foot pedal). Buyers of the $40 starter kit can buy additional cardboard parts for the other mini-games in two $20 sets, should the starter kit charm them enough.
Should your eyesight or comfort level not be compatible with virtual reality, Nintendo assures fans that all of the VR Kit’s mini-games will work in standard, 2D-screen modes, as well. This gameplay variant will require a “screen holder” attachment, which implies that players will hold the Switch console and move it around to simulate head movement.
The VR Kit’s reveal appears to contradict Nintendo’s own messaging about VR, which was quite cold as recently as early 2018. That statement came after Nintendo gave Bandai Namco permission to make a VR version of its Mario Kart Arcade series in late 2017.
Listing image by Nintendo