Virtual Boy: The bizarre rise and quick fall of Nintendo’s enigmatic red console

How Nintendo took a gamble on a new kind of gaming experience in the '90s.

May 15, 2024 - 18:50
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Virtual Boy: The bizarre rise and quick fall of Nintendo’s enigmatic red console
A young kid using a Virtual Boy on a swing.

Enlarge (credit: Benj Edwards)

Ars Technica AI Reporter and tech historian Benj Edwards has co-written a book on the Virtual Boy with Dr. Jose Zagal. In this exclusive excerpt, Benj and Jose take you back to Nintendo of the early '90s, where a unique 3D display technology captured the imagination of legendary designer Gunpei Yokoi and set the stage for a daring, if ultimately ill-fated, foray into the world of stereoscopic gaming.

Seeing Red: Nintendo's Virtual Boy is now available for purchase in print and ebook formats.

A full list of references can be found in the book.

Nearly 30 years after the launch of the Virtual Boy, not much is publicly known about how, exactly, Nintendo came to be interested in developing what would ultimately become its ill-fated console. Was Nintendo committed to VR as a future for video games and looking for technological solutions that made business sense? Or was the Virtual Boy primarily the result of Nintendo going “off script” and seizing a unique, and possibly risky, opportunity that presented itself? The answer is probably a little bit of both.

As it turns out, the Virtual Boy was not an anomaly in Nintendo’s history with video game platforms. Rather, it was the result of a deliberate strategy that was consistent with Nintendo’s way of doing things and informed by its lead creator Gunpei Yokoi’s design philosophy.

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