Monday, August 2

Virtual Boy: The Day Nintendo Really Failed | Digital Trends Spanish

Nintendo is not a company that fails with its products. Most of the consoles he creates are counted as successes, and even gadgets like the Wii U or GameCube ended up being more failures than failures.

But with the Virtual Boy, Nintendo outright failed. Introduced on July 21, 1995, the console resulted in a product whose novelty was not enough to interest people. The Virtual Boy reached a year on the market before Nintendo discontinued it and in total it sold less than 800,000 units. To have a parameter: in a year it sold fewer units than the Nintendo Switch in any month.

What kind of console exactly was the Virtual Boy? As the first part of its name says, it was a virtual reality console, built around a kind of helmet with two lenses that showed stereoscopic images. The Virtual Boy games were not really in 3D environments, like those that would appear later in the Nintendo 64, but games of traditional cut in two dimensions that were given a pronounced effect of depth.

The Virtual Boy, like its “brother” Game Boy, displayed monochrome images. Just as the original notebook had combinations of green and gray, the Virtual Boy did the same with red and black. According to reports at the time, Nintendo intended for the Virtual Boy to display color images, but that would result in an overpriced console. If three-dimensional images were the novelty, color could be overlooked

The second part of the Virtual Boy’s name was also difficult. The Game Boy was portable; the Virtual Boy, not really. And it wasn’t even halfway there, as the system was large and required tabletop mounting in order to use it. Comfort was not part of the virtues of the Virtual Boy.

But perhaps even more terrifying was the fact that the Virtual Boy, like modern VR headsets, could create a lot of discomfort after a period of use. In 2021, even the most comfortable visors with better screen technology will not allow too long sessions of use; Back in 1995, the red and black colors of Virtual Boy games ended up being really annoying after a short while.

Mario Clash
Mario Clash

All of the above could have been overlooked if the console’s catalog had been groundbreaking, but the situation at the Virtual Boy launch resulted in the opposite. Unlike other Nintendo platforms that were released with Super Mario Bros. (the NES), Tetris (Game Boy) or Super mario world (Super NES), the Virtual Boy came with few really interesting or flashy games.

To start with, most were traditional 2D titles with certain adaptations to give them depth, as in the case of Mario Clash or Virtual Boy Wario Land. Others like Teleroboxer, simulated a three-dimensional environment with a first-person perspective, but almost no movement. And in general, most games were nothing more than a curiosity.


In total, 22 titles were released for Virtual Boy, of which only 14 made it to the West. From the first moment, Nintendo must have sensed that the situation was not going to be as successful as with its other consoles: both the reviews of the time and the people who bought the console agreed that it was an uncomfortable system to use and that the games weren’t so interesting as to overlook the discomfort.

Therefore, no one was surprised when in 1996 Nintendo stopped manufacturing and selling the Virtual Boy. Neither the world nor the technology were prepared for what the console proposed and that becomes evident when just two decades later, the reality visors have achieved a more widespread use. Nintendo, for its part, would not try again with this type of stereoscopic images until 15 years later, when the Nintendo 3DS was launched with a similar idea but now in full color, in a truly portable format and without the need for a helmet or glasses. specials.

Virtual Boy Wario Land
Virtual Boy Wario Land

They say that you learn from every failure and it would be interesting to know what lessons Nintendo learned from Virtual Boy, although one of them seems more or less obvious: with virtual reality, never again (until now).

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