Nintendo Getting Back Into VR, 20 Years After Virtual Boy

In the early and mid 90’s, products like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy cast such a negative light on virtual reality that it took 15 years for VR industry to recover. But it seems time heals all wounds, because in a recent earnings call, Nintendo revealed that it has reignited research into virtual reality.

This info comes from a report by the Financial Times, and while there doesn’t seem to be a timetable to release specific VR products, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima described VR as a very interesting technology. A move into VR makes a lot of sense for Nintendo as the company has pioneered a lot of new technologies, such as glasses-free 3D on the Nintendo 3DS, motion control on the Wii, and of course, VR way back in 1995 on the Virtual Boy. 

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Other consoles makers such as Sony and Microsoft have already shown off serious forays into VR and AR with products such as Playstation VR and Hololens, which now puts Nintendo in the somewhat unfamiliar position of having to play catch up. And let's not forgot about even more powerful VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTV Vive, which are both scheduled to go on sale later this year and seemed poised to break open the VR floodgates.

What remains unclear is if Nintendo’s VR research will have any impact on the company’s upcoming NX console, which some rumors say could arrive as soon as the 2016 holiday season. Another avenue for Nintendo’s re-entry into VR could come via smartphones using a system like Samsung’s Gear VR.

Nintendo has already announced that its first smartphone game will arrive sometime this spring, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Nintendo wantiing to one-up generic games such as VR: Karts Sprint with an authentic Mario Kart experience combined with virtual reality.

Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).