Virtual Reality is set to go big this year, with challengers like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all entering a market which is predicted to be worth hundreds of millions over the next few years.
Despite tentatively dipping a toe into this sector two decades ago with the ill-fated Virtual Boy - a venture which some believed did VR more harm than good - Nintendo has been rather stand-offish with the concept. Shigeru Miyamoto questioned the viability of the tech not so long ago, while Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime claimed it "just isn't fun". However, that stance has changed somewhat recently, with Nintendo saying it was "looking at VR" but wouldn't be in a position to give more details any time soon.
While Nintendo may be reluctant to lay its cards on the table now, the rest of the industry is showing intense interest in the tech. At GDC 2016, Carnegie Mellon University professor and game designer Jesse Schell held a talk which outlined his 40 predictions for VR and and its close relation Augmented Reality, and the room was packed to capacity 20 minutes before he even said a word - an indication of how much interest there is in this sector.
Those 40 predictions covered topics such as VR headset ownership, location-based VR theme parks and even when the mass media will latch onto the negative side of VR gaming, but the one which is of most interest for Nintendo fans relates to Schell's belief that the Japanese company is already working on a headset, and that it could be the one which takes the industry in a new direction.
Schell feels that by 2022, most of the cash spent on VR will be related to portable, self-contained systems that are not dependant on other mobile tech (like Samsung's Gear VR, which needs a Samsung smartphone to function) or require a PC or console, and are free from cables and wires which restriction movement and immersion:
Imagine if you strapped a DS to your face, it's like that or imagine if the Virtual Boy didn't suck. I would bet Nintendo is working on one.
It's worth noting that despite Schell's knowledge on VR, the predictions he delivered are just that - predictions based on personal thoughts rather than solid information. Claiming that Nintendo is looking into VR is hardly a massive stretch - the company's R&D labs will have countless speculative projects in development - but Schell's point is rather different; he seems to feel that Nintendo could be the company that will take VR in a new, mainstream direction, creating the "Game Boy" of VR systems. Back in the early '80s Nintendo took the (then) new-fangled medium of video gaming on the road with its Game & Watch range before refining that with the Game Boy in 1989; could the firm perform the same trick with VR, or is this a dead-end for a company which is focused so much on social gaming?
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