Nintendo has officially unveiled its fourth Labo Toy-Con kit for the Switch console, and in doing so has finally confirmed the long-standing rumour that the console would receive a virtual reality (VR) add-on.
Nintendo's last venture into early virtual reality didn't end well: The Virtual Boy was a clunky single-colour device which needed to be used on a table stand - plans to have a strap which turned it into a true headset having been ditched over concerns that users would injure themselves if they were free-roaming. While originally envisioned as a true virtual reality device, cost and health concerns would see it scaled down over its four-year development period: Head-tracking capabilities were removed, a colour LCD display was switched out for a red LED display, and by the time the device launched in 1995 - in an unfinished form its creator Gunpei Yokoi had hoped would never see the light of day but which was pushed out so Nintendo could concentrate on development of the Nintendo 64 - it was destined for a short life. The console was officially discontinued after just five months in Japan and six months in the US with a mere 770,000 sold - well below Nintendo's projected sales of three million units.
The failure of the Virtual Boy, though, didn't stop rumours circulating that Nintendo's clever convertible Switch console would be receiving a VR add-on. On the surface, the rumours made sense: The idea of taking a compact tablet-like device and attaching lenses is well-proven in projects from Google's Cardboard to Samsung's Gear VR, and the Switch's controllers include motion tracking capabilities as standard. Those shooting down the rumour, though, pointed out that the display of the Switch is too low-resolution to offer a quality VR experience, and that the console's high running temperature and relatively weak battery life would further hamper efforts in that direction.
Now, a year or two later than expected, Nintendo has officially proved the naysayers wrong with a VR add-on - though it comes in Google Cardboard-inspired Labo Toy-Con form, as the fourth build-your-own accessory bundle in the range.
Dubbed the Labo VR Kit, the bundle is to launch in two flavours: A 'Starter Set + Blaster" includes the base cardboard VR adapter plus enough additional cardboard to make a gun that, somewhat clunkily, sticks out from the user's face; the more expensive full kit features additional cardboard designs including a camera with working manual focus and zoom, an elephant mask, and a bird with flapping wings. Those buying the cheaper kit will be able to upgrade later, Nintendo has confirmed.
The kits are due to launch in April, and while UK pricing has yet to be confirmed Nintendo has set a US recommended retail price of $39.99 and $79.99 for the starter and full sets respectively (around £30 and £61 respectively, excluding taxes.)
February 26 2021 | 22:15