Nintendo is well-known for its many video game successes, such as the older Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo Switch. Behind all of its successful consoles, however, are some products that were a flop at the time. Fortunately, these proved to be minor setbacks for the company, and it has since pushed these failures into the background while focusing on the more successful consoles.
The failed Virtual Boy console from the 1990s is one of these consoles that Nintendo has let fade into obscurity. The Virtual Boy was a VR-like console with 3D capabilities that were far ahead of their time. It came with a mounted eyepiece into which a player would peer to view the screen, similar in appearance to today’s VR headsets. Nintendo positioned the Virtual Boy as an innovative and one-of-a-kind experience. While it was certainly true in theory, it did not receive the response Nintendo had hoped for.
Why the Virtual Boy failed
Although Nintendo attempted to portray the Virtual Boy as a step forward for video game consoles, it was actually a step back. According to Business Insider, the Virtual Boy had only a monochrome red-and-black screen, was not portable like the Game Boy, and many people thought the 3D effects didn’t add much to the overall experience of the games. Furthermore, the games themselves were deemed unappealing and failed to pique the interest of players. There were only 22 Virtual Boy games released. Not to mention the Virtual Boy’s plethora of potential health risks, such as nausea and eye strain (via Business Insider).
In fact, Nintendo was required to include a warning about these health risks with the console. It also stated that allowing young children to play with the Virtual Boy could result in long-term vision problems. This is the most extreme of the health issues associated with the console, but players also reported back pain as a result of having to bend into the headgear on the tripod instead of being able to wear it. Headaches were also frequently mentioned.
These flaws ultimately led to the Virtual Boy’s demise. The console’s initial price was $179.95 when it was released in 1995, but Nintendo eventually had to lower it as sales stagnated. Only 770,000 units were sold in total (according to Fast Company), a very small number when compared to the Game Boy, which sold 40 million units. The Virtual Boy was discontinued a year later due to a complete lack of interest.
Nintendo’s future of success
After the failure of the intended 3D Virtual Boy, you’d think Nintendo would steer clear of anything of the sort. And it didn’t return to 3D until the Nintendo 3DS was released in 2011. This was a handheld system similar to the previous Nintendo DS and DSi, but with 3D capabilities that did not require glasses. Instead, it used a stereoscopic effect to create depth on the screen. The Nintendo 3DS and its successor, the 3DS XL, were more successful than the Virtual Boy. It was well received by critics, and the 3D effect “is immediately obvious, yet seems so natural,” according to IGN’s first-look review. Although the handheld did not sell well at first, it improved after a price reduction.
Read more; The Rise And Fall Of 3D TVs
Even more than the 3DS, Nintendo’s most recent console, the Switch, has proven to be its best-selling console to date, with 111.08 million units sold, according to Nintendo. The Switch embodies all of the best aspects of a Nintendo console, including comfort, portability, fun and exciting games, and stunning visuals. It also gained popularity among critics, thanks to blockbuster games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This result is noticeably better than the Virtual Boy, and it demonstrates that Nintendo truly understands how to recover from mistakes.