Updated March 7, 2:09 p.m. ET with a statement from Nintendo about children using virtual reality headsets.
In a sudden and unexpected announcement last night (March 6), Nintendo announced a new Labo cardboard kit for the Nintendo Switch that turns it into a virtual reality headset. It will launch on April 12.
For $80, you'll get the Nintendo Labo VR Kit with the goggles, five cardboard designs (including a standard VR headset look, blaster, camera, elephant, bird and wind pedal) and software. There's also a $40 version that only includes the goggles, blaster design and the software. If you buy the cheaper package, you can also buy the camera and elephant as one expansion or the bird and wind pedal in another.
Don't, however, plan to start playing Nintendo's existing blockbusters like Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in VR now. Don't expect VR mainstays for other systems, like Superhot, either. For now, the only software that will work with it are the games that come with the Labo kit. Because of the simple, family-friendly nature of Labo, imagine the games to be quick and easy. Curiously, there doesn't appear to be any gameplay footage of the Labo VR Kit's games.
Interestingly, the box suggests that VR mode is for children 7 and older, which is far younger than more advanced headsets like the Oculus Rift (13 and older), PlayStation VR (12 and older) and HTC Vive, which the company says isn't for children.
"No two products are alike," Nintendo of America said in a statement to Tom's Hardware. "We made our decision based on our product, not other products or forms of entertainment. You would have to talk with those companies regarding their decisions on age guidelines. Nintendo has considered this issue carefully and determined that the VR mode of Nintendo Labo: VR Kit should only be used by children 7 and older. Parents can restrict the display of VR mode for children 6 and under by accessing in-game settings using the goggles icon. Even when VR mode is turned off, the experience is designed to be enjoyable for all ages. Parents also should monitor their children’s play time and remind them to take frequent breaks."
This is Nintendo's first step into VR since the Virtual Boy came out in 1995. While that experiment didn't go well, VR is far more mainstream now, and the Nintendo's Switch's success so far makes it less likely we'll see a flop like that again.