Focus group makes developer cry after testing Nintendo Labo trainwreck

I’m sure by now we all know about Nintendo’s new and seemingly innovative product coming out next week. That’s right ladies and gentlemen I’m talking about the Nintendo Labo, and just recently Nintendo held a focus group in the U.S. and in Tokyo. The basics of the Nintendo Labo is this: you can craft many things and use the Nintendo Switch to in conjunction to play games that come with it. The material is made out of cardboard, and of course it comes with some programming to enable the interaction with the different video games. You can watch the video below for an example of the different things you can do with Nintendo Labo.

Now that you’ve watched the video and have a good idea of what it is, let’s get to the nitty gritty. When this was announced a while back I knew it was going to be a bad idea on Nintendo’s behalf, and I wasn’t impressed at all when they announced it in their Nintendo Direct. I’m not the only one that feels this way either. The developers on this project from Nintendo – Mr. Sakaguchi, who started off as a character designer on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess later became the director of Splatoon is now one of the lead developers on Nintendo Labo, but on the software side, and Mr. Ogasawara is in charge of the hardware. These gentlemen held a focus group testing and it didn’t go the way they expected. Check out their interview below:

Mr. Sakaguchi:The idea that tools shouldn’t be necessary is what caused the design to take shape. Once we had preliminary designs to work with we did some consumer testing in the U.S. and in Tokyo. The tests didn’t go over very well, though. It was…it was rough. I was so upset I went back to the hotel room and cried a little. I’m serious! I was so sad! (Laughs.)

Interviewer:Ogasawara-san, you were tasked with the design of the cardboard sheets at the time, weren’t you? What did you make of this feedback? I’m assuming you had never worked on cardboard design projects like this before.

Mr. Ogasawara:Well, we had experience designing product packaging using cardboard, but this was the first time I’d ever tried to make a cardboard design that was easy to assemble for the consumer. Despite this, I continued working on the designs and—well, the consumer test was a real shock! (Laughs.)

Sakaguchi-san said it made him cry, but to tell you the truth things were rough over in hardware development too.

It was surprising because it wasn’t like we hadn’t put a lot of thought into the design at that point. We were always calling over co-workers unfamiliar with the project and seeing how well they could make the Toy-Con projects we designed, and those experiments had always gone well. So basically, consumer tests on adults had all been good up until that point. Going into the test I’d been thinking that 70% or 80% of the kids would do well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It was a real disaster.

Mr. Sakaguchi:At first the concept was built completely around the message, which was that these are toys made of cardboard. So the original designs looked less like the objects they were modeled after, and looked more like, well, cardboard. I remember talking about the piano once, and we considered making the lid portion look more like the curves of a grand piano. At the time, we thought that customers could make the toys look like whatever they wanted, so we’d leave as many design elements up to them as possible.

nintendo labo2

There you have it…the feedback made Mr. Sakaguchi cry. This should speak volumes as to how well this is going to do when it comes out next week on 4/20. I personally wouldn’t buy this because the idea of paying good money for cardboard ($70 for the variety kit and $80 for the Robot kit) seems idiotic to me. I don’t have a problem with assembling anything, because let’s face it, at some point in your childhood you had to assemble something you wanted to play with. It was part of being a creative kid!

I don’t want to seem like I’m attacking the team working on this project, or Nintendo directly because I’m not. I just have to call some things the way I see them, and give my two cents on it while being completely honest and as unbiased as I possibly can. I want Nintendo to do very well! I’m finding myself falling in love more and more with the Nintendo Switch console the more I play it – it’s gotten more playtime than my Playstation 4 and I’m a Sony fanboy! With that said, I highly doubt Nintendo is going to sell 20 million Switch consoles for 2018 with Labo not being greatly received like they thought it would be.

You can check out the full interview here.

4 Comments »

  1. The interview (thanks for the link) seem to indicate that the issue wasn’t the content or what Labo is, it was more about the difficulty in assembling it. They used this feedback to create a better experience which they then retested. Obviously, this isn’t for us cause the second test the used elementary grade students. You can tell this isn’t meant to appeal to hardcore Nintendo fans like Mario Oddysey or the upcoming Metroid Prime.

    • It’s true that this isn’t supposed to be something that would appeal to hardcore Nintendo fans, or even hardcore gamers. Is it innovative? Of course, and it’s great for kids to learn something tech wise at the very base level. My concern in part, is the assembly of it and the durability. The base-line fact is that it’s cardboard that’s being sold(with software of course) for $70 and $80 respectively. Even when kids are using this they have to be careful to not damage it or any of the pieces because that would mean game over – pun intended lol. It’s costly, and at the end of the day it’s something that parents would have to engage in with their kids so they can be mindful of what they’re doing. Now if Nintendo did this with something that was more durable than cardboard I might’ve been on board with it.

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