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VirtualBoyLogo.jpg image by NintendoBeyond

Nintendo's Virtual Boy (•–©`•Ń•„•Ž•‹©`•§ B®°charu B®­i?) (also known as the VR-32 during development) was the first portable game console capable of displaying "true 3D graphics." Most video games are forced to use monocular cues to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional screen, but the Virtual Boy was able to create a more accurate illusion of depth through an effect known as parallax. In a manner similar to using a head-mounted display, the user looks into an eyepiece made of neoprene on the front of the machine, and then an eyeglass-style projector allows viewing of the monochromatic (in this case, red) image. It was released on July 21, 1995 in Japan and August 14, 1995 in North America and at a price of around US for $180. It met with a lukewarm reception that was unaffected by continued price drops. Nintendo discontinued it the following year.

 

Virtual Boy

Manufacturer

Nintendo

Type

Portable game console

Generation

Fifth generation era

First available

JP July 21, 1995
NA August 14, 1995

Discontinued

1996[1]

CPU

NEC V810

Media

Cartridge

Units sold

770,000[1]

Nintendo's Virtual Boy (•–©`•Ń•„•Ž•‹©`•§ B®°charu B®­i?) (also known as the VR32 for the codename

 

Cartridge specifications
128 megabit addressable ROM space (4-16 megabit ROM used in released games)
128 megabit addressable RAM space (0-8 kilobyte Battery Backed RAM in released games)
128 megabit addressable expansion space (unused in any released games)
Expansion interrupt available to the cartridge
Left and right audio signals pass through cartridge
60-pin connector

 Development

The console was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, inventor of the Game & Watch and Game Boy handhelds, as well as the Metroid franchise. While compact and seemingly portable, Virtual Boy was not intended to replace the Game Boy in Nintendo's product line, as use of the system requires a steady surface, and completely blocks the player's peripheral vision. According to David Sheff's book Game Over, Yokoi never actually had intended for the console to be released in its present form. However, Nintendo had grown impatient with the amount of time that he had taken with the project. It wanted to focus on the Nintendo 64, and quickly rushed the Virtual Boy to market.

 Reception

 

Hype surrounding the device included public musings by Nintendo that the device might resemble a gun set vertical, projecting a 3D image in the air. The actual device was considered a disappointment compared to this description:

...the Virtual Boy produced very impressive 3-D effects, although the monochromatic graphic style proved to limit the appeal of the visuals.
®C Nintendo of America

Video game analysts believed Virtual Boy was a flop in the marketplace, for several reasons:

  • It was marketed as a portable system, but it was not as portable as gamers thought it should be. Due to its size and weight, the Virtual Boy was nearly impossible to use while in motion, and doing so could cause damage to the unit.
  • It was considered too expensive on launch, with a US$180 initial price. Further reductions in price did little to aid sales of the product.
  • People who were short-sighted and needed to wear glasses found it almost impossible to use the goggle-like system with their spectacles on, and as a result were also less likely to be potential buyers.
  • There was a poor selection of games available at launch and very few software developers wanted to invest in a new, unproven gaming system. In total only 22 titles were available between the North American and Japanese markets. Other game problems were related to the format of the console, which did not seem suited for certain types of games, giving players the impression that it was a rather limited system.
  • The base of the system could not be adjusted vertically. This meant that the system has to be placed on a table to play (which could be uncomfortable, particularly for the player's back) or that users had to lie down to use it. The base was also somewhat flimsy and replacement parts were not very common. A vertically-adjustable stand was planned but never brought to market.
  • Due to the nature of the Virtual Boy system, other players could not watch, which took away the entire social aspect of gaming. A multiplayer option was in development, via a cable that would hook two units together, but the product flopped before such an addition could be made.
  • Because of its poor performance in the Japanese and American markets, the console was never released in Australia or Europe.

The commercial demise of the Virtual Boy was regarded by many as the catalyst that led to Yokoi being driven from Nintendo. According to Game Over, the company laid the blame for the machine's faults directly on the creator. The system was listed as number five in PC World's "The Ugliest Products in Tech History" list.

 

 Marketing

  • Voice-overs or some advertisements were done by Dylan Bruno.

 Games

Due to the short lifespan of the system, only 22 games were released. Of them 19 games were released in the Japanese market, while only 14 were released in North America.