Friday, July 3, 2009

Nintendo's folly - the Virtual Boy

A black mark on an otherwise rather clean record of quality for Nintendo was the Virtual Boy.  I can remember the original hype about Nintendo's new portable virtual reality game system.  It was going to be like living a sequence from the movie adaptation of Lawnmower Man but without the VR sex and going crazy parts... perhaps not the super robo monkey soldier either.  AND it was PORTABLE!!!

It sounded like we had all died and gone to uber sci-fi geek heaven.  But while we were all having dreams about romping around the Holodeck from "Star Trek the Next Generation" like Lt. Barkley (wow what a geek reference) Nintendo had other ideas.

Nintendo's idea of a portable virtual reality game system was headset so friggin heavy it needed a metal frame to stand on and blinding red lasers that would give gamers migraines but in the process kinda look like an interactive 3d vector line world... kinda.  Nintendo's dream and gamers' dreams were about as close as poop is to a sandwich.  Needless to say, it didn't sell well.  There were about 3 games for it and it was super expensive so most people steered clear of it.  Its fall was quick and dramatic.  I can clearly remember a time I was walking through the local mall and noticed that the toy store had the Virtual Boy on sale for $15 because they just wanted to get rid of it.  I was moderately disappointed that I only had $12 on me... but not that much.

I guess if your an extreme Nintendo fanboy then owning one would be a nice addition to your collection.  But it really did prove the hard lesson that you shouldn't try to market a technology before its even close to being viable.  Unfortunately the Virtual Boy debacle put a stigma on the concept of home virtual reality gaming, and it really hasn't been pursued seriously since then.

Personally, I always thought that if you could make the head set with two color screens over your eyes all you would need to do to make awesome VR games would be to make a Quake III mod that had a second "Spectator" camera locked to your character looking in the same direction but a little to one side.  Binocular vision = depth perception = VR.  But thats just my idea.

1 comment:

RetroPengo said...

LOL! Oh man, the horrible red and black neon flashbacks! OH NO MY EYES!

See, I owned one of these for about a week. We promptly returned it when it started to give me the same migraines you talk about. I'm surprised they don't re-market this little product as a "Home Lasik Kit" because fuck if those red lasers didn't burn off your retinas.