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Nintendo Labo and Nintendo’s History of Curveballs

Nintendo manages to hit homeruns, even with products that take gamers by complete surprise!

Gaming headset maker Turtle Beach examines Nintendo's latest announcement: Labo!More often than not, if you ask any gamers out there what was one of their very first consoles, they’re probably going to respond that it was a Nintendo product. Whether it was a Super Nintendo, GameBoy, Nintendo 64, GameCube – perhaps even a Nintendo Wii these days – Nintendo has been a staple in the life of gamers since they first decided to get into this little thing called the video game industry.

But it hasn’t always been straight forward. Nintendo aren’t afraid of trying something new, sending something our way that makes us pause for a moment and wonder what they’re thinking – but more often than not, it’s a massive success. With the internet still reeling from the reveal of Nintendo Labo, we thought it might be fun to talk about the other times Nintendo threw us a curveball.

We might as well start with the most recent announcement: Nintendo Labo. Nintendo products are all about imagination and creativity, so blending the two together is just the next logical step. Nintendo has managed to capture the magic of LEGO and paper craft, and fuse it with gaming. Instead of just using a motion controller to pretend like you’re fishing, you can literally build a fishing rod and use it while gaming.

The brilliance is that it’s not just a video game and it’s not just construction paper – it’s a blend of the two. Once the miniature piano has been built, you can slot the Switch into it and actually play with the toy your hands just built. Sure, you could play the games without using the cardboard, but it’s not only relaxing to build something, it creates a longer “playtime”.

There’s just so much potential here that it’s tough to guess what could come next. We certainly hope we can get our hands on more creations and get to building.

Nintendo’s genius in creating new and exciting ways of playing extends far back, and probably truly kicks off in 1996. While the Nintendo 64 wasn’t their first console, the Nintendo Entertainment System and SNES were fairly straight-forward units. The N64 however, offered forth a controller only a mother could love, and yet it’s touted as one of the most iconic gaming machines in history.

Everyone eventually forgave the odd design of the controller, partially because it just worked, and partially because it felt good controlling a character in 3-dimensional space. The humble N64 controller would be the first of many fantastic curveballs.

Some years later, the Nintendo DS crept onto the market after the incredible successful line of GameBoy products. This new handheld contained not one, but two, screens, hence the “DS” in Nintendo DS stands for “Dual Screen”.

At first, players were baffled why they would need two screens, “How am I going to concentrate on each one? Impossible.” But now look at us with our multi-monitor setups, looking at our phones while watching TV, and consuming as much media using as many screens as possible. Nintendo knew what we wanted before we even did! To cap it off, it also had a touch screen, all those years before the feature truly hit mainstream mobile phones.

Then there was the Wii with its motion controls. Gaming had always been such a sedentary recreational activity. We sit down on our couches or at our computer desks and don’t move again until we need to eat, drink, or something else. Nintendo wanted to change the game, both literally and ideologically, and they did.

Everyone and their grandparents either owned a Wii or had played Wii bowling, golf, or tennis at one point in their life. It was one of the first times different generations could be connected together with video games.

It also completely revolutionized how we play video games, and is absolutely essential for using VR. Again, they were so far ahead of the trend most other companies spent years trying to catch up.

Next up came the Nintendo 3DS. While 3D screens and movies aren’t as popular as we would have expected them to be back in the 90s, it was incredible for Nintendo to offer gamers a 3D experience without the need for gawky glasses. To this day, we still get excited when we use our 3DS and see the game popping out at us.

Finally, Nintendo Labo wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for Nintendo and their latest and greatest console-handheld gaming hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. This incredible piece of technology offers it all: a slim and compact unit that can be played on the go without losing any power or performance, a dedicated home-console that you can use while lounging around, all while offering a controller that changes depending on what you want. Playing by yourself? Use it like a regular controller. Playing with friends? Pop out the sides and hand them around for use as a mini controller. Genius. And don’t even get us started on the incredible games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Nintendo isn’t one to shy away from innovation, even if it takes the gaming industry a moment to catch its breath and figure out what’s going on. The only thing that matters is having fun while playing video games, and Nintendo continue to hit the mark. We can’t wait to see what else Nintendo brings us this year, but for now, we’re just holding out for the launch of Nintendo Labo on April 20!

Honorable Mention: Virtual Boy – more like a screwball than a curveball, the Virtual Boy was another example of a signature Nintendo effort to innovate in the gaming space. Alas, this oddity was a resounding failure, doomed to be forever scorned as a bad gamble.