The Top 7... Nintendo mistakes

How the videogame giant became the world's favorite underdog

6 - The Virtual Boy

"Eye Advisory: Virtual Boy is for players 7 years and older" - Virtual Boy box

No list of mistakes would be complete without mentioning the world's favorite piece-o-crap gaming device. Launched in 1995, just as the SNES was fading and a year before the N64 would arrive, this "portable" machine was stricken from memory the moment it hit the shelves. For some reason, Nintendo thought people would actually want to strap their heads into a clunky headset that only displayed red visuals on a black background (and caused incredible eye strain after moderate use). The faux-3D images looked like a Game Boy trapped in a crimson-laced Tron nightmare, never once offering the supposed "32-bit" processing power promised on the box.

It was ugly, It was heavy. It was uncomfortable. It was confusing. It was almost 200 damn dollars. Within a year you could find these things for $25, games for $10 and eager merchants desperately trying to get this abomination out of their stores. In a way, the Virtual Boy was the true beginning of the end for Nintendo's unquestioned dominance, the first bizarre misstep in a series of horrible mistakes. Some came before, sure, but they were obscured by the fact that Nintendo was the only game in town. In '95, Sega had chewed up half of the audience and Sony was ready for the rest - a product as ill-conceived as the Virtual Boy couldn't have struck at a worse time.

Virtual Boy's creator, the late Gunpei Yokoi, resigned from Nintendo following this disaster. It's a shame he left (or was forced to leave, as some surmise), as Yokoi is also the father of the gazillion-selling Game Boy. Who knows what other joys he could have brought to this world if he hadn't left the company?

It was ugly, It was heavy. It was uncomfortable. It was confusing. It was almost 200 damn dollars. Within a year you could find these things for $25, games for $10 and eager merchants desperately trying to get this abomination out of their stores. In a way, the Virtual Boy was the true beginning of the end for Nintendo's unquestioned dominance, the first bizarre misstep in a series of horrible mistakes. Some came before, sure, but they were obscured by the fact that Nintendo was the only game in town. In '95, Sega had chewed up half of the audience and Sony was ready for the rest - a product as ill-conceived as the Virtual Boy couldn't have struck at a worse time.

Virtual Boy's creator, the late Gunpei Yokoi, resigned from Nintendo following this disaster. It's a shame he left (or was forced to leave, as some surmise), as Yokoi is also the father of the gazillion-selling Game Boy. Who knows what other joys he could have brought to this world if he hadn't left the company?

Topics

We recommend