As we shared earlier, Nintendo posted up an internal interview about Nintendo Labo. The interview features Mr. Sakaguchi, Nintendo Labo Director, Mr. Kawamoto, Nintendo Switch Director / Nintendo Labo Producer and Mr. Ogasawara, Nintendo Labo Hardware Lead. In the snippet below, we get to learn about just how tough the focus-testing of Nintendo Labo was.
Mr. Sakaguchi: I figured that building and repairing these things would be flexible and easy because we were dealing with engineered cardboard sheets. But once we decided that we wanted to design the Toy-Con creations so that you wouldn’t need any scissors or glue to assemble them, the project suddenly became very difficult.
We thought it would be disappointing if you bought a product and then realized you didn’t have everything you needed to complete it. I mean, of course that would be disappointing. We decided we couldn’t let that happen.
Mr. Ogasawara: We decided on this very early in the process, because if tools were necessary we’d have to include them in the kits—but the more we thought about it the more we realized that we wanted to design the product so that you wouldn’t need any tools at all.
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.