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Nintendo Sets Its Sights on Virtual Reality

March 22, 2019, 1:00 AM UTC

Nintendo is the latest player in virtual reality.

Earlier this month, the company announced its new Labo: VR Kit, cardboard that video game players can mold into game accessories, like a bird and camera among others, and then use them with Nintendo’s flagship Switch console.

The new Labo kit comes in two versions. The full kit, which costs $80, comes with software for nine games and activities, and the six Toy-Con builds, or cardboard accessories. Those accessories include a blaster that shoots lasers and fruit, a bird that players can fly around within games, and a “wind pedal” that produces a draft as players jump in games to make the experience seem more realistic.

The more limited kit, which costs $40, comes with the same software as the full kit, VR goggles, and a blaster. Two add-on packs for the Labo VR kit, which cost $20 each, give users of the introductory kit more Toy-Con builds.

Labo: VR kits, which ship on April 12, are among the least expensive bundles for VR gaming. In contrast, PlayStation VR bundles (the VR set and a game or two) cost over $200. However, PlayStation’s VR set is made of heavy plastic, not cardboard, and its tech specs are more advanced. But for younger players or families wanting to try VR for the first time, the new Labo kit may be appealing.

Earlier this week, Nintendo gave a demonstration of the Labo VR kit in New York City and highlighted it would do some things differently from its rivals. While many rival VR headsets strap to the head, users of Nintendo’s must hold their goggles up to their eyes; there’s no strap. In that way, play time is limited as users can only hold up the device for so long. People can also more easily share what they’re seeing with someone in the room, meaning players won’t have to disconnect from their environment when playing in VR.

In a big departure from competitors, Nintendo’s VR games feature a prompt that appears after a certain amount of time and suggests that users take a break. The prompts automatically come up.

The break reminders are partly a byproduct of the fact that children are the target users for Labo VR kits. Nintendo suggests that parents of children 6 and under block their use of VR.

In its video games, Nintendo often emphasizes communal playing, and with some of its biggest hits, like the Mario Party and Smash Brothers franchises, several people can play together in the same room. Switch is among the few consoles that come with two controllers rather than one.

Nintendo’s VR kit also includes Toy-Con garage, a feature from earlier releases that lets players create their own games or game levels. While those can’t be shared online, they can be played by others using the same console.

“Nintendo Labo is inherently designed to encourage imagination and creativity in people of all ages by blending real-world and virtual experiences,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “This new kit takes that concept a step further by layering in virtual reality to bring the Toy-Con creations to life and encourage family-friendly, pass-and-play experiences.”