Back in April, Nintendo launched a bold new initiative called Labo. A collection of DIY cardboard accessories for the Switch, Labo was designed primarily to reach brand-new audiences outside of the traditional game-playing demographic. While the company says that the first two iterations of Labo have sold well — the “variety kit” reached the top 10 on the NPD sales chart during launch month — there’s still a lot of work to do.
While more typical games like Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey tend to have a surge of sales at launch, Nintendo believes Labo will have a longer lifespan. “Labo represents something else entirely,” says Shinya Takahashi, general manager of the company’s software division, Nintendo EPD.
While Labo is something of a unique proposition, this goal of reaching people outside of games isn’t actually new for Nintendo. It’s something the company tried to do with its “blue ocean” strategy for the Wii and Nintendo DS, when it released a number of nontraditional video games aimed at new audiences. For Nintendo, Labo fits into the same category.
“Labo is the type of game, much like Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, much like Wii Fit, it’s a game that’s going to sell for a very long time at a very steady pace,” says Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé. “Which is a different curve than a traditional video game. And so from that standpoint, our focus is on how we can continue to support it, how we continue to help consumers understand the proposition. There’s a lot of activity happening with Labo around the summer, especially as kids are out of school, we think it’s a prime opportunity. Labo is off to a strong start and in our view is going to continue to get a lot of support.”
That Nintendo is chasing this market again shouldn’t be a surprise. Wii Fit and its sequel both sold more than 21 million copies worldwide, while Brain Age is the fourth best-selling title on the Nintendo DS with close to 19 million units sold. The problem so far, according to Takahashi, is that the company hasn’t yet been able to find that broader audience with Labo.
“We want to get to a demographic that’s not traditionally reached by games at all,” he explains. “I think the case with Nintendo Labo right now is that there are some people who know about it, and quite a lot of potential still for us to explore. The people who are aware of Nintendo Labo right now I think are still in the circle of Nintendo fans and game fans in general. We’re really interested in how we can go beyond that, to people who aren’t really in the loop of game news.”
While he wasn’t specific about how exactly Nintendo will reach that audience, Takahashi says that, with Labo’s focus on tactile play, it will require a unique approach. “We have to find ways to create those opportunities [for people to see and touch Labo],” he explains. “That’s something that happens in a very close, one-by-one process.”