Nintendo Reluctant To Embrace VR Until It’s Mainstream
Virtual Boy
(Last Updated On: June 17, 2016)

Nintendo has already tried their hand at VR 20 years ago in the form of the Virtual Boy. It was not a good system but it sure was innovative at the time. Nintendo has silently stayed out of the VR sector since then but they have dabbled in a little bit of augmented reality, which includes the upcoming Pokemon GO. However, when questioned about getting back into the VR game, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime explained why Nintendo was playing it safe this time around.

GamesIndustry.biz picked up the news from a Bloomberg interview, where Reggie explained where Nintendo came from and where they are now when it comes to virtual reality headsets, saying…

“For us, we want to make sure that technology is mainstream, […] We want to make sure the technology represents strong value to the consumer. So as an example, there was a lot of gyroscopic technology out there in the marketplace, but it really took the Wii and the Wii Remote to really make it mainstream. Even going back all the way back to the Nintendo DS, that was the first electronic device that really made extensive use of a touchscreen.

 

“So the way we look at VR or even AR, which we do have within our Nintendo 3DS system, for us the technology has to be at a point where it can be mainstream, and then it takes content creating companies like us to really make things that the consumer wants to experience, that they want to jump into the particular technology. That’s how we move it forward. We’ve been looking at the VR space since the days of the Virtual Boy. With us, we want to make sure that our next content is going to be mainstream and mass market approachable, and when something like VR is at that point, you can expect Nintendo to be there.”

Reggie Fils-Aime

Reggie Fils-Aime

Those are some long block quotes for sure, but everything Reggie is saying is important, true and very salient to the discussion around virtual reality. While Nintendo is sometimes the frontrunner when it comes to innovation, it’s usually taking something established and spinning it in a way that others haven’t done yet. They also have a strong focus on inclusion and family oriented playability.

The last part about inclusion and family orientation are the two most important parts of Nintendo’s ecosystem, and right now VR is neither family oriented nor inclusive. And by that I mean that one person puts on an expensive headset and is completely cut off from everyone else. It’s difficult to generate a local multiplayer experience around that kind of setup, and right now that’s the only kind of setup available for VR.

Console and PC hardware just isn’t strong enough to run multiple headsets all at once in a convenient and affordable fashion. Single headsets are still way too expensive, with the quality HMDs – in the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive – starting at $599 and running up to $1,000 in some bundles. It’s just not consumer friendly for the average household. VR is still very much enthusiast based.

Reggie drives home the point about the consumer market by stating…

“In my judgment, I think VR is a bit further out there for mainstream, mass market applications and applications that consumers can invest a lot of time in versus short snacks of entertainment,”

He’s actually dead-on with this estimate here and market analysts seem to believe the same thing. Revenue forecasts for VR have steadily been dropping throughout 2016, mainly due to delayed shipments on orders posing a problem for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive customers, alongside the hardware being extremely expensive. What’s more is that most of the software for the VR HMDs are all rather supplementary experiences that you play as “snacks of entertainment” instead of long-form gaming experiences equivalent to what you might find from a Nintendo product.

I’m pretty sure when there’s an affordable local multiplayer solution for VR and when the tech can allow Nintendo to do what they do best, then we might see them return to the VR head space once again. For now, even for a hardcore gamer like myself, I’m still very leery about VR and the only mainstream inroad to that market right now appears to be the PlayStation VR.


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About

Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • C G Saturation

    I’m reluctant to embrace VR until it stops sucking. I was probably an enthusiast for VR until they announced the ridiculously high prices. Couple that with Facebook assholes and their DRM nonsense, and it’s very much no thanks.

  • scemar

    this reminds me of comments made by nintendo towards different technologies and trends in the past, stuff they subtly mocked like this and ignored…until they became industry norms and they had to struggle to catch up later

    on different degrees they’ve acted similarly about digital distribution, online social connectivity, HD graphics, downloadable content, open world gameplay, modern controllers, etc
    I can see the point they’re trying to make but I don’t think it’s a valid one
    VR is a technology that is rising because of public demand, unlike marketing driven trends like 3D or motion controls

    it’s a technology that has a clear long term goal in mind, everyone has an idea of what VR should be, so they’ll keep working on improving it until it reaches that level

    the bumps on the way for VR are usually either technical (tech improves) or economic (tech gets cheaper) so only time really standing in the way of VR it seems very likely it will be part of the future, period, you either embrace it now or struggle to do so later

    if the NX has the power to run VR, even a third party VR like occulus, they should start experimenting with it, even if only for the sake of testing stuff
    make a small tech demo of peach’s castle or some other iconic part of the mushroom kingdom to explore

    however if the NX can’t run VR…it must be a very weak machine

    • baxtus

      There is little to no public demand for VR

      There is enthusiast demand for VR, but not public demand, most people I’ve talked too have no real demand for VR, they may find it interesting, but once they hear the price tag, they are no longer interested.

      VR is too early in its life, too expensive and too niche for most people.

      It’ll be a generation at least before VR becomes mainstream.

      Nintendo does occasionally have an issue with waiting too long, but in this they are right on the money.

      When the price gets to a point where each headset is cheap (no more than $100) and no longer requires a cutting edge system to play it, then and only then will there be public demand for the product.

      • Gotta agree with your sentiments here. VR is just way too expensive for the average consumer and outside of porn it’s not like they’ve made it a very viable consumer product that is “must have”. VR has no killer apps.

        GearVR is selling decently but no one seems to say exactly what apps people are flocking to to use with the GearVR (likely porn).

        I think Nintendo is right to sit this one out until at least 2017, where a better gauge of VR in the consumer marketplace can be made.

        • LurkerJK

          That reminds me, what happened with the Porn VR booth in E3 ? i have read or heard nothing about it since sjws made a fuzz a few weeks ago

          • Might have to look into that.

      • LurkerJK

        I’m with baxtus, the media is filled with enthusiasts so thats what you hear, regular joe would not drop 800+ usd on vr without the entire world screaming about some killer app

        • baxtus

          Yup, and right now there isn’t one

          VR needs to reach the point where it’s like Star Trek Holodecks, where you can go into a game with your friends and family all in the same room

      • scemar

        but enthusiasts are part of the public, they might not be the majority or the average type of people but they are part of the public and do drive adoption
        plus even if demand is not too high due to the barriers like the price, the desire is high

        and it will go up with more games that use it, with more demos out there and people getting to try it

        I’m not saying it’s going to be an instant hit

        but what I am saying is that it will get there, it will stick around, it will improve, and it will eventually reach that point, gradually it will become more and more common too as average specs rise, barriers to entry lessen and the price drops, adoption will go up along the way

        and for that reason it is worth experimenting with it, specially for a big company, so at least they manage to keep up to date with what VR can do, so they have some ideas of what they might be able to use it for in the future, so they learn how to use the technology along the way

        so when it finally becomes a more mainstream technology and they are finally ready to release products for it, they already have the experience of working with it and they already have polished some of their ideas

        so they aren’t caught off guard and in a bad spot like with HD

        • LurkerJK

          even if demand is not too high due to the barriers like the price, the desire is high

          A dangerous assumption, what we were saying is that regular ppl are not willing to even consider the though, not that they would buy it for sure if it was lower, there is a difference between someone who is against it but willing to talk and someone against it and holding their hands over their ears and screaming “LALALALALALA”

          but what I am saying is that it will get there, it will stick around, it
          will improve, and it will eventually reach that point, gradually it
          will become more and more common too as average specs rise

          I agree and looking at their quote Nintendo seems to agree too, and to that i would say why is it necessary for the NX to be their VR console and not a new one in say 3 or 4 years, Nintendo comes from several failures in a row i doubt they are thinking about experimenting and trying new things

        • baxtus

          Enthusiasts are a tiny fraction of the market

          Desire only exists because it sounds interesting, but the barrier is still to high to translate that interest to sales

          (I mean if someone gave me an HTC Vive for like $50 bucks along with a super powered PC, yeah I’d buy it, and one headset for my wife so we could play together, but for 4-6 hundred for a single headset, no thanks, same with PSVR, spending like $700 for the headset, camera, wands and PS4 sounds too pricey, not to mention I’d also have to buy a game on top of it and couldn’t play with my wife)

          In addition there is no killer app for VR, nothing like “Wii Sports” that can drive demand.

          Plus it’s not social, I can’t play with my wife or anyone else in the same room.

          Sure it’ll get there, but probably not this gen, maybe next

          Nintendo has knowledge of VR, they released VR in the 80’s, they know how to use it, and they know that now isn’t the right time for it.

          When VR becomes like Star Trek holodecks, then it’ll be a smash hit, when groups of people can go into a game and truly fell like they are in the game, then it will be amazing, that’s the day you should anticipate.