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Could A VR-Related Switch Announcement Be Approaching?

by Emily Rogers - February 15, 2019, 1:05 pm PST
Total comments: 7

The breadcrumbs have been laid out and sources have told us VR could be coming to Switch soon.

Nintendo World Report believes that Nintendo could make its first VR-related announcement as early as this year, according to multiple sources. We also believe that a small, select number of traditional first-party software titles may receive VR support in the not-so-distant future. While this news may surprise some, Switch’s VR capabilities have been public knowledge for quite some time. Last year, CNET reported that data miners had discovered a screen-splitting “VR mode” hidden within Switch’s system firmware.

Over the years, Nintendo executives have tried to downplay the company’s interest in VR. In an interview last year, Philippe Lavoue, Managing Director of Nintendo France, expressed doubts that VR can appeal to the mainstream. “Consumers are not patient with entertainment if you’re not able to deliver an all-inclusive package,” said Lavoue.

However, there is mounting evidence that suggests Nintendo is actually very interested in the technology. In June 2016, Digitimes reported that Nintendo had delayed Switch’s launch to March 2017 to enhance the console with Virtual Reality (VR) capabilities. During that same year, it was also revealed that Nintendo had filed a patent application for a head-mounted display that could house Switch’s tablet screen.

Four months ago, Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo of America, confirmed to Ars Technica that the company was actively experimenting with Virtual Reality for its software. And in a 2017 interview with Nikkei, former Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the company had been studying the possibility of adding VR to the Switch.

Furthermore, Anime News Network reported last month that 13 Japanese companies established a joint enterprise named “VRM Consortium.” The enterprise’s goal is to develop the international virtual reality business. Nintendo is currently participating as an “observer” of this newly-joint enterprise. Participating companies include Unity Technologies Japan, Dwango, and Crypton Future Media.

All of this wasn’t even Nintendo’s first brush with VR. Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy might not have been a success, but when it was released in 1995, it was advertised as a “portable console” capable of displaying “true 3D graphics.” Unfortunately, that description didn’t quite match (virtual) reality. The system was far too large and bulky to ever be considered truly portable, and the monochromatic graphics were limited to a red-and-black color palette. The box was plastered with warnings about how playing too long could eventually lead to health issues. Virtual Boy would go down in history as Nintendo’s worst selling console, getting discontinued after less than a year.

It’s been 24 years since the release of the Virtual Boy, and technology has gone through much advancement since then. Two months ago, IDC issued a report that the VR market received a 8.2% year-over-year growth during the third quarter of 2018. IDC believes spending on VR and AR products and services will increase by 69% this year. Nielsen-owned SuperData Research predicts 2019 will be the year when virtual reality actually goes mainstream. SuperData are also anticipating growth of mobile augmented reality over the next few years due to Google and Apple.

Nintendo might have been absent from the VR wars of the past few years, as companies like Sony and Oculus wage war, but chances are good that we will see Nintendo enter the fight at some point in the near future. If their past is any indication, it very well might hark back to the age-old Gunpei Yokoi quote: “lateral thinking of withered technology.”

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Talkback

Ian SaneFebruary 15, 2019

This is funny as just yesterday I was watching Jeremy Parish's Virtual Boy Works on YouTube and commented on the fact that the 3DS was the perfect platform for Nintendo to re-release Virtual Boy titles and they chose not to so we'll probably never see those games again.

...or will we?  If this is a real then they have no excuse!  Funny how my priority for Nintendo VR is re-releasing Mario Clash, Wario Land and Teleroboxer instead of new VR titles that Nintendo could make.  Hey, if Nintendo made a Game and Watch Gallery style game with remakes of their old VB titles that would be a quick and easy launch title to supplement something more substantial.

Would the eyestrain concerns about the VB be an issue for straight re-releases?  Is that caused by the red graphics or the specific mechanism of how the VB works?  I can see Nintendo being resistant if the eyestrain issues are inherent to those games regardless of platform.

EnnerFebruary 15, 2019

After playing with Google Daydream with a Pixel 1 and PlayStation VR, the low resolution of the Switch screen will diminish any potential VR experiences. Still, the effect should carry through despite the lower fidelity. If this comes true, I'll be eager to try Switch VR.

Yep.

This goes a lot further than any of the rumblings I've heard, but it all checks with it. Not sure it's going to be a commercial product or just a test but, seeing this I'm a believer they're working on it.

WanderleiFebruary 15, 2019

I don't believe anything from these attention seeking rumor monger types, especially ones with a track record of being wildly wrong.

KDR_11kFebruary 16, 2019

VR in 720p is going to be bad. I have an Oculus Rift and anything past a few meters away is blurry and details get hard to see. And that thing runs at 2160x1200 in total.

I mean, personally I find VR without tracked hand controllers a waste since you can't just reach out and grab things and just sticking a Switch into a headset case won't allow it to track any controllers... Half the fun is to grab an object and look at it to figure out how it works and using your head to point at things isn't remotely as nice as using your hands.

Also of note: Oculus is releasing the Quest headset which is a standalone system with hand controllers, the headset handles tracking the controllers so there's no fixed infrastructure needed. That seems like it would compete with Switch VR.

ShyGuyFebruary 16, 2019

I'm guessing if Nintendo wants to do VR on the Switch, they've cooked up some new game or experience that is uniquely Nintendo.

SheckyFebruary 16, 2019

Wouldn't the switch be kind of heavy to plop into a holder that straps to your head?

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