Released in 1995, the “Virtual Boy” was supposed to be Nintendo’s dive into virtual reality. It was marketed at the time as the first head-mounted console able to show stereoscopic “3D” graphics. However, just a year later Nintendo ended distribution of their VR product.
The pieces of this project at surface level appear to be a recipe for success. Development went for 4 years under the name “VR32”. Virtual reality was the tech for the new millennium. Nintendo claimed to have spent US$25 million on promotional activities for the console. Video games were obviously a huge market in the 90s and Nintendo was a household name.
However, the high price of the product (US$179.95 – equivalent to $314.21 in 2020) with its monochromatic display alongside a lack of portability made the product Nintendo’s worse selling product. Nintendo of America projected hardware sales of 1.5 million units and software sales were projected at 2.5 million by year’s end. It only sold 770,000. It’s their only product to sell less than one million.
The stereoscopic technology wasn’t completely abandoned however. It reemerged in Nintendo’s successful 3DS handheld console.
YouTuber Shank Mods recently built a workable handheld Nintendo Virtual Boy with custom electronics and hardware.