originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Jonathan Brill, startup specialist, gamer, on Quora:
I think Nintendo Labo isn’t going to change the gaming industry, but I also don’t think it has to. The market for high-end, programmatic, “maker” products for kids seems to be growing, and for Switch owners this looks really neat.
But I wouldn’t call Nintendo Labo a game. It certainly seems like something to do, but kind of defies the category of games, in the same way that LEGOs are a blast, but that I also wouldn’t call them a game.
In that a game is some kind of structured contest, Nintendo seems to be building a new and unique market for their hardware and software, similar to what Microsoft did with the Kinect, and what Nintendo was able to do with the Wii. But I don’t think that makes the Switch a better (or worse) platform for gaming.
I think this is an important, albeit borderline pedantic, distinction, because I believe that gaming meets unique needs in a way that other ways to spend time do not. For example, I love puzzles, I love LEGOs, and I love playing games, but I think of those as distinct activities that serve different needs. I think it would be cool if there was technology that had more than one use in the home, but also have the privilege of that not being a requirement for my gaming system.
Here’s one litmus test question: if I couldn’t use the Nintendo Switch for anything other than Labo, would it be worth it? The answer there is no. As cool as these are, I think I’d be more confident that my three children (all under 10) would get more value out of LEGO’s Boost platform .
My son and daughter have both attended robotics camps and taken robotics classes, and the basis for all of those are LEGOs. The material and interface are versatile and good enough that as a parent, I don’t need to be involved, which is great for the kids. That LEGOs seem to currently be the standard for this in camps/classes, and we have something like eleventy bajillion LEGO bricks at the house that they play with anyway, that just seems like a safer platform bet.
The LEGO Boost product is an early-start robotics platform that allows LEGO building kids to experiment with basic, GUI level programming and robotics. Kids can then graduate to LEGO Mindstorm, which is about twice the price and complexity.
Having said that, I own a Switch, and highly recommend it to parents who have kids and want to encourage collaborative or family gaming. I’ve found the Switch to be a versatile and easy to use system, very conducive to kids exploring and playing lots of challenging and age appropriate coop games.
Because we already own a Switch, and Labo is relatively inexpensive, starting at $69 vs something like $150 for the LEGO Boost package, it seems like a great change of pace for kids who already love Switch hardware and want to make stuff.
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