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July 18, 2017

Tech Hunters: Looking back at Nintendo’s failed Virtual Boy

by John_A

Long before the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Nintendo was experimenting with a VR headset of it own. At first glance, the black-and-red Virtual Boy looked every bit as capable as the virtual reality headsets that were popular in the 90s, promising access to stereoscopic 3D worlds from the comfort of your living room. However, Nintendo got it wrong — really wrong. With its two-legged stand, which led to many a bad back, and uncanny ability to induce eye strain, the Virtual Boy was gamble that never paid off.

Released in August 1995, the Virtual Boy sold over 750,000 units during its brief life span. For some, that would be considered a success, but Nintendo was riding high from the success of the SNES, which had shifted over 20 million units by the time the 32-bit console hit North American shelves. Within six months, Nintendo had discontinued the system and shifted its focus to the development of the Game Boy Pocket and the Game Boy Color.

Even though it’s considered a failure for Nintendo, the Virtual Boy has become an intriguing collector’s item for gaming enthusiasts. In this week’s Tech Hunters episode, Julia Hardy tracks one down to find out more about the headset that was perhaps a little too ahead of its time.

Tech Hunters is a 10-part video series that uncovers the devices we were once obsessed with, looking at how they disrupted the tech industry, and what they’re worth today. From the pocket pet obsession with the original Tamagotchi, to mix-tapes and Sony Walkman, Tech Hunters explores the audio, visual, interactive and transport innovations that have shaped today’s culture.

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