Nintendo’s doesn’t seem high on this virtual reality trend.
Speaking in a question and answer session with shareholders, famous Nintendo game developer Shigeru Miyamoto talked about the Japanese company’s current efforts with virtual and augmented reality. Miyamoto has created some of the most recognizable games ever, including Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. He’s also works with Nintendo to develop new hardware. Analysts at research firm SuperData predict that virtual reality could turn into a $40 billion business by 2020. But Nintendo has concerns, especially regarding children using the technology.
Here is what Miyamoto said:
As for VR, we are researching not just VR but AR and many other technologies. We have a range of core technology including 3D, and we are also considering the possibility of implementing these in our own hardware development.
For VR in particular, we are continuing our research, and looking into development with a mind to how our current core products are meant to be played for a relatively long period of time. We are looking into the possibilities of providing an experience that gives value when played for a short time, and how to eliminate the concerns of long-duration use. We are also looking into how to make sure that a parent doesn’t need to worry when their child puts on a VR device in their living room.
At this year’s E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo], I was on the show floor, and it did not feel like VR was that big of a topic. This could be because VR is not that much to look at for the spectator, even while it might be highly appreciated for the person actually experiencing it. It might also not be clear how the experience can be made into a product.
That stuff about making VR safe for kids isn’t surprising. Nintendo is obsessed with making sure that gaming is family-friendly. While that attitude has helped the company amass one of the greatest collections of fun-for-everyone series like Mario and Pokémon, it has crippled its systems’ online features. Nintendo won’t add standard services like online voice chat because it fears that it will expose children to negative and vulgar players.
Nintendo experimented with VR back in the ’90s with the Virtual Boy, a portable system that was basically a VR headset on a small stand. Compared to recent consumer products like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, the Virtual Boy was simple. It only displayed games in red and black, and it had no head-tracking. The system was a major flop for Nintendo. The company’s handheld, the 3DS, has glasses-less 3D and a camera that allows for simple augmented reality experiences.
As for what Nintendo is doing with virtual reality and augmented reality now, we can only guess. Its next system, the NX, will launch in March 2017. We do not know much of anything about the console, let alone what role VR or AR will play (if any).