Labo Nintendo

Nintendo Labo Director Explains How Joy-Cons Were The Key To The Concept

Nintendo Labo Director Tsubasa Sakaguchi, Producer Kouichi Kawamoto, and Hardware Lead Mr. Ogosawara recently participated in an interview with Nintendo to discuss the various Nintendo Labo kits. In the lengthy interview the team shared exactly how the Nintendo Switch’s unique Joy-Cons were fundamental to the super fun project.

Excellent. Moving on then, I’ll jump right to it: Where did you get the idea for Nintendo Labo? I suppose it’s a basic question, but I’ve been wondering for a while, so I thought I’d just ask you directly.

Tsubasa Sakaguchi, director: “Not wasting any time, are you?

I have always enjoyed thinking about interfaces, and I’ve always wanted to make things that you can interact with.

I worked on the Home Menu UI for the Nintendo 3DS, as well as the terrain system, player control scheme, and the interplay of these elements for the Splatoon game on the Wii U console. All of these projects involved control-and-response relationships—it’s an area I enjoy working in, and I think I might even be good at it.

Anyway, getting back to what gave us the idea for Nintendo Labo… I knew I wanted to make something new, and I knew that there are already a lot of videogames out in the world. Honestly, I just tried not to overlap with things that had already been done.

We’d been thinking a lot about how to make something easy to grasp, something that could only be done with the Nintendo Switch console and its Joy-Con controllers. I just followed the logic of that question as far as I could, and it turned into Nintendo Labo.”

So you started by wanting to make something different from other games, something you could only do with Nintendo Switch?

Sakaguchi: “I started thinking about what makes Joy-Con controllers different from other game controllers. At first I thought it was the way the separated controllers could work together as one unit, but of course we’d already done that with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, so that couldn’t be the standout feature. Then I thought about how unique it was that the Joy-Con controllers could be split, so two players could use one set—but then I remembered that the original Famicom had a similar setup, so even though I think it’s a wonderful feature, it’s more of a throwback than an innovation.

So I kept thinking about the controllers and what made them special, and eventually I realized it was the sensors—both the left and right controllers have sensors in them.

If we made something with both Joy-Con attached to it, we could use the differential between their sensors to do all kinds of new things…that was really the start of it.”

When you say, “use the differential,” what do you mean?

Sakaguchi: “Well if you had one controller be a “sword” and the other controller a ‘shield,’ that’s an additive relationship, by which I mean each controller can perform its action on its own. If that’s the case, you could theoretically just use one controller and switch the control schemes with a button press. But using both controllers and controlling something with ‘the relationship between the controllers’ is a control scheme that absolutely requires the use of both.

For example, the fishing game we’ve made here uses this ‘controller differential control scheme.’

By attaching the right Joy-Con to the handle of the fishing rod and then attaching the left Joy-Con to the reel, it allows us to use the position of the handle to measure the rotation of the reel.

Or to phrase it differently, if you were to only use the left Joy-Con, you would not be able to differentiate the motion of the fishing rod from the movement of the reel. However, if you then added the right Joy-Con and compare the differences seen from its sensors to those of the left Joy-Con, you can make it work. As we got deeper into all our experiments we started to think of the Joy-Con as bundles of sensors—that really freed us to consider all kinds of possibilities.”

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