Virtual Reality is not a new concept, but there has been a renewed sense of interest towards it recently. What has long been little more than a sci-fi dream is finally becoming a reality, as three technology giants are in the process of releasing their individual VR-headsets this year. While Nintendo isn’t currently part of this parade, it’s arguable to say that they were the ones who dared to try it first in the gaming industry all the way back in 1995.
With all of the hype surrounding the revival of VR, and the fact that Nintendo already got their feet wet so long ago, is it safe to say that it’s time for them to take another swing at the idea?
The Virtual Boy can be rightfully considered as an early attempt at VR gaming. The system was certainly flawed, but the core idea behind it is the same as what’s behind the new devices of today—innovative, immersive gameplay.
As the name suggests, virtual reality is all about being transported to a digital world that posseses details that are so intricate, it feels as if you are truly inside it. Video games have always been about transporting us into fictional worlds where we have the freedom to do the impossible, but VR allows game developers to go the extra thousand miles by creating titles that seriously delude our brains into thinking that it’s not a game, but real life. For that reason, it is easy to see why there’s so much excitement surrounding the new VR devices.
Considering the fact that Nintendo is all about creating immersive and memorable experiences, you would think they’d be a little more enthusiastic about taking advantage of the new technology instead of just casually saying “we’re looking at it“. While that was their most recent statement on the matter, Shigeru Miyamoto actually did elaborate on it a bit more during E3 last year.
In summary, he said that in its current form, VR “doesn’t really fit in with Nintendo’s living room philosophy”. Truth be told, Nintendo has always made their home systems with living room fun in mind, not just the usual deep single player experiences, but also the local multiplayer. Even in the midst of the ever growing online population, Nintendo still hasn’t let go of the idea of traditional local couch gameplay, thus the reason why so many of the Wii U’s titles have had really great multiplayer features, especially Smash which pulled out all the stops by allowing up to 8 players at once.
VR really is on the opposite end of the spectrum, as it only appeals to a single gamer. While the player is lost in their virtual world, the events in real life are still continuing on around him. The only way I can imagine this being more in line with Nintendo’s ideas is if the other players are somehow included in the experience. Perhaps if they still have control over the game via the TV screen. Similar to how the Wii U Gamepad gives the master player a different perspective/objective from the TV players, perhaps this formula could be reworked to suit a VR-setup.
Regardless of how they would go about doing it, if they really did decide to attempt Virtual Reality again, there’s still one thing about all this that a number of people seem to not be considering—will VR end up just being another fad?
You would think that with all the excitement surrounding VR, one would be a fool to think that it has a chance of just evaporating. True, VR is getting quite a lot of exposure right now, but is it really the next big thing? 10 years ago, everybody was mesmerized by the Wii, and then 4 years later, the Kinect. Then after that, we saw the rise of 3D TVs and then the no glasses 3D of the 3DS shortly after. All of those were big deals at that time, but eventually, the interest for them simply leveled off. While I’m not trying to say that VR is doomed to the same fate, I will say that the chance is still very much there.
This technology is still in its infancy, so the first few months after all of the new devices are released will be particularly important. Even if VR does manage to take off, that is still not a guarantee that it’s going to become the next big thing in gaming. Aside from being pricey, game-VR is still not a very straightforward experience. For starters, you need to have an environment that is suitable for the headset to function properly, and on top of that, it’s still an over-sized pair of googles. How long will it take before the novelty wares off? Can families trust buying one and having it in the living room with their kids?
VR has always been, and definitely still is, a very cool concept. But I still feel that in its current form, it’s more of a hassle than a true enhancement to the experience. Of course, it all boils down to how entertaining the games will be. If they end up being truly amazing, then maybe we could have ourselves the dawn of a whole new chapter in gaming’s history.
But the question still remains—should Nintendo do it? Well, it will be very interesting to see exactly how they react to the events that will unfold in the coming months. If VR does take off, it is quite possible that they will send their R&D departments into overdrive in order to develop a headset of their own. They were the ones who dared to try it out first, so of course it would be interesting to see how a second go-around would turn out. Combine this with their knack for creating off-the-wall experiences, and you have yourself a force to reckon with. But what if they don’t attempt VR? Well, even though half the industry wants to see them simply create another run-of-the-mill power-box with the NX, it is safe to assume that whatever Nintendo has in store for us, it’s going to be something that will get people talking. And who knows: it may even be better than VR.