Virtual Reality may be back in favour these days, but back in the mid-'90s the initial burst of interest in the technology was starting to wane, and for many players the straw that broke the camel's back was the much-hyped Nintendo Virtual Boy.
Released in 1995 to almost complete consumer apathy, the console lacked motion-tracking, could only display images in black and red and featured software which did little to push the boundaries of immersive tech. Within a year it was being discounted heavily by retailers and remains Nintendo's most notable hardware failure.
The fact that the Virtual Boy lacked head-tracking has recently led Oculus founder Palmer Luckey to comment that the machine "hurt" the public's perception of Virtual Reality. In an interview with EDGE magazine from March 1995, creator Gunpei Yokoi explains why Nintendo decided to make the unit this way:
We didn't think that a head-mounted display would be necessary for a virtual reality system that doesn't use any kind of motion tracking facility. We are worried about the possible dangers of HMD technology, but we also considered the fact that if a woman wearing make-up was to use the head-mounted design, the next person might be hesitant in wearing it! So, we changed the design so that you can just look into the viewing apparatus and still appreciate the 3D experience. The standard format was shown at the Shoshinkai show, but we have plans for a shoulder-mount adaptor so you won't need a table or desktop to use the system.
While he never stated it officially, it was reported in David Sheff's excellent book Game Over that Yokoi was dissatisfied with the Virtual Boy design that eventually made it to market. He was forced to personally demonstrate the system at trade shows even after it was clear it was going to be a commercial disaster - some assumed this was Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi's way of punishing the veteran designer for releasing such a failure.
Yokoi left Nintendo in 1996 to form his own company called Koto, and would work with Bandai to create the WonderSwan, a handheld rival to the successful Game Boy which he created during his time at Nintendo. Yokoi would sadly be killed in a road traffic incident in 1997.