Don Moore

Happy Birthday, Virtual Boy!

In Video Games on August 14, 2010 at 2:18 PM

With the Sidekick meeting its demise last month, and the Motorola Droid and Google Wave leaving the mortal plane just a few days ago, it seems fitting to honor a long gone friend. Today we honor the Nintendo Virtual Boy, which was released fifteen years ago today, on August 14, 1995.

The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s first attempt at a 3D gaming experience. It was a short lived one–Nintendo discontinued sales on March 2 of the following year), but the Virtual Boy still holds a cherished place in our hearts.

Given the dominance enjoyed by the Wii and DS line of handheld consoles for the past 4 or so years, it may be hard to remember a Nintendo product that wasn’t successful (and I’m sure the guys at Nintendo are still trying hard to forget). But I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember when my spoiled cousin got one for his birthday. I remember when one of my classmates got one from his secret Santa (yes, an eight year old  secret Santa gave one of his classmates a $180 video game system. I am STILL trying to wrap my head around that one). And above all, I still remember the system itself. The dorky red Cyclops-like visor is still a vivid image in my mind.

The dorky visor probably had something to do with Virtual Boy’s quick demise. That, and the aforementioned 180 dollar price tag. And the lackluster LED graphics. Or the fact that, despite Nintendo claiming it was “portable”, it had to rest on a table to be played. Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above factors.

Whatever the reasons, The Virtual Boy ended up being one of the worst video game rollouts in recent memory. Time Magazine has Virtual Boy as one of the 50 Worst Inventions of All Time:

The system consisted of bulky, bright red headgear that completely obscured a gamer’s vision as he tried to play games rendered in rudimentary 3-D graphics. It was expensive (retailing at $180) and came with a limited slate of games (only 14 were ever available in the U.S.) Nintendo decided to focus its efforts on the far more successful and traditional Nintendo 64 system, relegating the Virtual Boy to the recycling bin.

Nintendo is set to once again delve into 3D with the new Nintendo 3DS. Seeing as how everything DS has pretty much been gold for Nintendo, I’m expecting the 3DS to be a hit. But it can never take the place of our beloved Virtual Boy. VB, we salute you.


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