The Wild History of Nintendo’s Innovative Virtual Boy
On my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, I’ve often brought up Nintendo’s now infamous Virtual Reality console from the 90’s: Virtual Boy. And I bring it up for good reason. For one, it was a genuinely mobile product (thus the closeness of its name to the phenomenal Game Boy) at a time when mobile was yet to be a thing (and wouldn’t be until the iPod debuted)…and obviously that it was 25 years ahead of Google, Samsung, and the rest in bringing serious VR straight to consumers. Not just to developers. Consumers. Where it matters.
Granted, the Virtual Boy was a market flop, but there’s something to be said for a company taking the risk of making an exponential leap forward in technology, especially doing so away from the traditional PC’s of the day. And that’s part of the magic of the Virtual Boy: Nintendo usually doesn’t lose. The company holds the records for most-sold consoles in nearly every market. The Nintendo DS. The Nintendo Wii. Both top sellers of their categories…of all time. So how does such a flop happen with the Virtual Boy, which was just as forward thinking as the previous consoles mentioned?
Recently at Zomia Offline Games, I’ve shared some other “golden journalism” that has been done. And this stuff wasn’t just great gaming journalism, it was great journalism all the way around. The discovery of Michael Jackson creating the soundtrack for Sonic 3, as well as the discovery a 1993 NES game that was never meant to be played, these stories set the mind on fire if you’re a gamer, or just someone that is interested in little known bits of history. And these stories ring true–I think–because they don’t necessarily have a political bent…these stories aren’t lying to you. Outside of GamerGate (which I’ve said was largely a case of “cheap heat” by the news industry), it’s one of the things I love about gaming news: What you see is what you get. The facts are the facts.
And now I want to share another story with you, and this has to do with–and is a fairly lengthy and complete history of–the Virtual Boy. This is another case of masterpiece journalism online that I wish constituted a whole book, but I’ll take it even in this form. Fast Company did a great job here, breaking down the reality around this true innovation of a machine (as compared to the complete lack of innovation that exists in Silicon Valley). Check it out at the link here:
And keep in mind that, as I always say on Sovryn Tech, technology moves forward in a spiral fashion (not exactly cyclical). The history of technology repeats itself, but as it spirals up, more and more people get onboard and the technology often gets better honed. The same is certainly true for mobile VR (it is THE thing right now), and it may also be true for Nintendo to be at the forefront of it again…especially with the mysterious Nintendo NX console coming in 2017. So learning the history of Nintendo’s past with VR, may give a glimpse into Nintendo and VR’s future.
DISCLAIMER: The ZOG Blog is the part of this site where Dr. Brian Sovryn can talk about anything. From pop culture, to philosophy, to just sharing updates with what’s going on at Zomia Offline Games and with other projects.