From Nintendo to Modern Day VR
On Monday, Mar. 28, Facebook’s very own Oculus began shipping its initial virtual reality product to customers. However, it could have a bit of a difficult time winning the hearts of its US users. The past product that a large multinational company attempted to bring virtual reality gaming to the world was just over two decades ago, and it was literally an immediate failure.
In the early nineties, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy gaming system tried to promise a new type of gaming in virtual reality, and it failed to achieve on almost every level. Nintendo wasn’t readily accessible to confirm how many Virtual Boy consoles that is successfully sold since launching in 1995, but reports show that less than 800,000 of the vomit inducing products shipped before being removed from the market. The consoles prior and post, Super Nintendo and the Nintendo 64, both achieved numbers close to thirty times better than their attempt at virtual reality, according to Nintendo.
Back in that era, Nintendo was as much of an everyday name as Facebook is in this era. The company stayed in its realm of expertise, that being video games, however its characters showed up in movies, TV shows, cartoons, and just about every piece of clothing and general product imaginable. After breathing life back into the video game market with its 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo followed up with two more blow out hits: such as the Game Boy and the Super Nintendo. The next level, some experts thought, was to reiterate the gaming company’s success to a new stage.
“What should be done to once again engross Famicom and Super Famicom players?” Gunpei Yokoi, the master mind behind the Game Boy, stated in his 1997 book, Gunpei Yokoi Game Pavilion.”If the TV screen medium has reached the limits of its potential, isn’t 3D the only option?”
Then the arrival of the Virtual Boy was brought to us.
Nintendo tried its best to get the Virtual boy its proper marketing of the new 3D gaming system in a proper ’90s cyberpunk style, aimed at a younger generation of gamers.
The product was priced at $180, a little lower than Nintendo’s 2D home consoles, and about twice the amount of the launch price of the Game Boy.
The new product was even talked up on the front cover of Nintendo Power, the company’s very own gaming magazine, with a 90s circulation of around two million.
In a Jan. 2016 a question and answer page on Reddit, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey stated that he didn’t think of the Virtual Boy as a true VR product, and that it may have been the start of a negative public perception of what virtual reality really is: “A real shame, too, because the association of the Virtual Boy with VR hurt the industry in the long run.”
What will happen with 2016, will it end up being a cheesy remake of 1995? Today’s virtual reality systems like Oculus, HTC’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR are a long ways away from Nintendo’s elementary 90’s gaming product. Virtual reality technology has advanced so much within the last twenty years, and the VR content being published feels intimidating, immersive, and, most of all, enjoyable. However, there’s still a large gap to overcome right now: VR systems require high powered computers that can range in the $1000 mark, and the headsets themselves cost more than $500.
Even though the initial reviews of the Oculus Rift seem well received and positive, Facebook and others branching into VR needs to prove to everyone that they are selling something that is truly worth buying, and that won’t make them vomit all over their house and is worth sticking their heads into a dark box for hours upon hours. Until the average person can enter a store and actually try on and experience a VR headset, it’s a hard product to sell.
Earlier, Facebook and Oculus CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Brendan Iribe hosted a live stream of them walking through the Rift and what’s in store for the upcoming year. Zuckerberg said that Facebook intends to be invested in this project “for the long term.”