After years of sticking to sidelines, reports of Nintendo making the VR switch have started to emerge. Reportedly, we should be on the lookout as the Japanese company is set to announce major Virtual Reality involvement this year. The news is all the more compelling considering the history of love-hate relationship between Nintendo and VR.
It must have been heartfelt for Nintendo to watch their Virtual Boy never making the manhood. Looking at today’s stand-off between Facebook and Sony, many are unaware that Nintendo, yes Nintendo, were among the first to push the VR-ish gaming console to the market. It was a spectacular failure, the Virtual Boy was, it barely lasted a year before being rightly discontinued. Understandably, Nintendo didn’t want to have anything to do with VR since 1995 on, but it looks like things have been softening up lately. Not only is VR Switch console a hot topic, but apparently the first party classic titles are planned to receive VR overhaul.
The catalogue of Nintendo VR hints and downplays is a curious one. When the 2016 patent application report for head mounted device was revealed, more than a few heads turned in amazement. It was an interesting VR solution as the patent was supposed to host Nintendo Switch display. Furthermore, the same year saw a fated multi-month delay in launching the Switch console, which many interpreted as being due to a last-minute VR empowerment. It was quite clear that the Japanese gaming magnate was keeping its options open.
Then a series of VR Switch support downplays ensued, none more heartbreaking than when Philippe Lavoue from Nintendo France discounted VR for not being mainstream enough and we quote: ‘Consumers are not patient with entertainment if you’re not able to deliver an all-inclusive package’. Scales were then again tipped in favor of VR Switch when Reggie Fils-Aime from Nintendo America publicly admitted that ‘we’d love to see more of this tactile experience, between interactive experience and the touch and feel of something in real space’.
And there is the recent case of ‘VRM Consortium’, an international VR business enterprise consisting of a dozen of Japanese companies, where Nintendo enjoys the ‘observer’ status. But still the strongest hint was dropped in 2017 by former Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima who admitted that VR Switch support is a possibility and the one they are actively assessing.
There are some 24 years between the hapless Virtual Boy and now, more than enough time to grow up. Nintendo has always been sensitive to the pulses beating inside their gaming community and much of the company success is down to reacting to those pulses. Nintendo will always have a trusting army of devotees around its consoles, so there is no imperative to make the VR switch just yet. But as VR is gaining prominence, it might become the hot selling point for many considering their gaming options. But the ultimate argument still is, if they can do it, why not?