Virtual Boy

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Template:For Template:Infobox information appliance The Template:Nihongo was a table-top video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It was the first video game console that was supposed to be capable of displaying "true 3D graphics" out of the box, in a form of virtual reality. Whereas most video games use monocular cues to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional screen, The Virtual Boy creates an illusion of depth through the effect known as parallax. In a manner similar to using a head-mounted display, the user looks into an eyepiece made of neoprene on the front of the machine, and then an eyeglass-style projector allows viewing of the monochromatic (in this case, red) image.

It was released on July 21, 1995 in Japan and August 14, 1995 in North America at a price of around US$180. It was not released in PAL markets. It met with a lukewarm reception that was unaffected by continued price drops. Nintendo discontinued it the following year.<ref name="gamepro">Template:Cite web</ref>

Contents

Development

The Virtual Boy was first announced via press release on 14 November 1994. Nintendo promised that Virtual Boy would "Totally immerse players into their own private universe."<ref name="press1">http://www.planetvb.com/modules/advertising/?r17</ref> The system was formally unveiled the next day at the Shoshinkai (初心会) Show.<ref name="Boyer">Boyer, Steven. "A Virtual Failure: Evaluating the Success of Nintendos Virtual Boy." Velvet Light Trap.64 (2009): 23-33. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref> Nintendo of America unveiled the Virtual Boy at the Consumer Electronics Show on 6 January 1995.<ref name="press1" />

While Nintendo's Research & Development 3 division (R&D3) was focused on developing the Nintendo 64, the other two engineering units were free to experiment with new product ideas.<ref name="Boyer" /> The Virtual Boy was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the general manager of Nintendo's R&D1, and the inventor of the Game & Watch and Game Boy handheld consoles. He saw the Virtual Boy as a unique technology that competitors would find difficult to emulate.

Initial press releases and interviews about the system focused on its technological capabilities, avoiding discussion of the actual games that would be released.<ref name="Boyer" /> The company entered into an exclusive agreement with Reflection Technology to license the technology for the Scanned Linear Array displays.

Problems emerged when Nintendo attempted to turn its vision into an affordable console, searching for low-cost hardware components.<ref name="Boyer" /> Yokoi opted for red LEDs because they were the cheapest;<ref name="Boyer" /> Nintendo said a color display would have been prohibitively expensive.<ref name="Rafferty">Rafferty, Kevin. "Super Mario Takes Leap into Three Dimensional Space." The Guardian (1959-2003): 2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003). Nov 16 1994. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref> Color was also said to have caused "jumpy images in tests."<ref name="Rafferty" /> LEDs were also chosen for having the lowest drain on batteries, and for being the most striking color to see.Template:Cn In addition, LCDs at the time had low refresh rates, and were often blurry.Template:Cn They also consumed more power than LEDs.Template:Cn Even with cost-saving measures in place, Nintendo priced the Virtual Boy at a relatively high US$180.<ref name="Boyer" /> While slightly less expensive than a home console, this was considerably more costly than the Game Boy handheld.

While more powerful and with seemingly more advanced graphics, the Virtual Boy was not intended to replace the Game Boy in Nintendo's product line, as use of the system requires a steady surface and completely blocks the player's peripheral vision. According to David Sheff's book Game Over, Yokoi never actually intended for the console to be released in its ultimate form. However, Nintendo pushed the Virtual Boy to market so that it could focus development resources on the Nintendo 64.<ref name="autogenerated1993">Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children by David Sheff, 1993, Random House.</ref> Design News described the Virtual Boy as the logical evolution of the View-Master 3-dimensional image viewer.<ref>"BreakTime: Virtual Boy Updates the Viewmaster Idea." Design News. 6 (1995): 192.</ref>

Release

File:Mario's Tennis screenshot.png
A screenshot from Mario's Tennis, the North American pack-in for Virtual Boy, on an emulator. The anaglyph red/blue format simulates the Virtual Boy's 3D display.
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The Virtual Boy was released on Template:Start date in Japan and on Template:Start date in North America with the launch titles Mario's Tennis, Red Alarm, Teleroboxer, and Galactic Pinball.<ref name="LAT">Curtiss, Aaron. "Valley Weekend; VIDEO GAMES; Virtual Boy a Blend of Familiar and Strange; although Hardware for the Latest Nintendo Offering is Odd and Cumbersome, the Play Action is Big and Loud." Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext): 14. Los Angeles Times. Aug 31 1995. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref> It was not released in PAL markets. In North America, Nintendo shipped Mario's Tennis with every Virtual Boy sold, as a pack-in game.<ref>http://www.flickr.com/photos/dionisio/2833237521/sizes/o/in/photostream/</ref> Nintendo had initially projected sales of 3 million consoles and 14 million games.<ref name="press1" /> At the system's release, Nintendo of America projected hardware sales of 1.5 million units and software sales numbering 2.5 million by the end of the year.<ref name="NYT">"Introduction by Nintendo." New York Times: D.7. New York Times. Aug 22 1995. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref><ref name="WSJ">Nintendo co.: U.S. unit begins shipping virtual boy video system. (1995, Aug 22). Wall Street Journal, pp. B10-B10. http://search.proquest.com/docview/398447594?accountid=14749</ref>

Nintendo extensively advertised the Virtual Boy, and claimed to have spent US$25 million on early promotional activities.<ref name="Boyer" /> Advertising promoted the system as a paradigm shift from past consoles; some pieces used cavemen to indicate a historical evolution, while others utilized psychedelic imagery. Nintendo portrayed the system as a type of virtual reality, as its name indicates; it was to be more than just another gaming console.

Confronted with the challenge of showing 3-dimensional gameplay on 2-dimensional advertisements, the company partnered with Blockbuster and NBC in a coordinated effort.<ref name="Boyer" /> American viewers were encouraged via television advertisements on NBC to rent the console for US$10 at a local Blockbuster. This made it affordable for a large number of gamers to try the system,<ref name="Boyer" /> and produced 750,000 rentals.<ref name="Mediaweek">"Nintendo/Nickelodeon/Blockbuster." Mediaweek 6.30 (1996): 36-. ABI/INFORM Global; ProQuest Research Library. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref> Despite its popularity, the rental system proved harmful to the Virtual Boy's long-term success, allowing gamers to see just how un-immersive the console was.<ref name="Boyer" /> Taken as a whole, the marketing campaign was commonly thought of as a failure.<ref name="Tomb Space">Template:Cite book</ref>

Nintendo had shipped 350,000 units of the Virtual Boy by December 1995, around three and a half months after its North American release.<ref name="Ty">Ahmad-Taylor, Ty. "A Crowded Field: Portable Video Games." New York Times (1923-Current file): D5. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2008). Dec 04 1995. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref>

Nintendo announced additional titles for the system at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1996, but these games never saw the light of day.<ref name="Boyer" /> The last official title to be released for the Virtual Boy was 3D Tetris, released on Template:Start date.<ref>Template:Cite document</ref> The Virtual Boy was discontinued in late 1995 in Japan and in early 1996 in North America. Nintendo killed the system without fanfare, avoiding an official press release.<ref name="Boyer" />

Reception

The screens of the Virtual Boy

Reviews of the console tended to praise its novelty, but question its ultimate purpose and longtime viability. The Los Angeles Times described gameplay as being "at once familiar and strange."<ref name="LAT" /> The column praised the quality of motion and immersive graphics, but considered the hardware itself tedious to use and non-portable. A later column by the same reviewer found the system to be somewhat asocial, although it held out hope for the console's future.<ref name="LAT2">Curtiss, Aaron. "VALLEY WEEKEND; Nintendo Virtual Boy Measures Up to Billing; as its Library of Titles Slowly Grows, the 3-D System is Becoming More Well-Rounded and Less of a Headache." Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext): 15. Los Angeles Times. May 02 1996. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref>

While Nintendo had promised a virtual reality experience, the monochrome display limited the Virtual Boy's potential for immersion.<ref name="Boyer" /> Reviewers often considered the 3-dimensional features a gimmick, added to games that were essentially 2-dimensional<ref name="Boyer" /> or even 1-dimensional.<ref name="WaPo">Frischling, Bill. "Sideline Play." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 11. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1995). Oct 25 1995. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref> Yokoi, the system's inventor, noted the system's strengths with action and puzzle games, although those types of games provided only minimal immersion. Multiple critics<ref name="Boyer" /><ref name="Tomb Space" /> lamented the absence of head-tracking in the Virtual Boy hardware. Critics found that, as a result, players were unable to immerse themselves in the game worlds of Virtual Boy games. Instead, they interacted with the fictional worlds in the manner of any traditional 2-dimensional game. The Washington Post felt that, even when a game gives the impression of 3-dimensionality, it suffers from "hollow vector graphics."<ref name="WaPo" /> The Virtual Boy failed for a number of reasons, among them "its high price, the discomfort caused by play [...] and what was widely judged to have been a poorly handled marketing campaign."<ref name="Tomb Space" />

Many reviewers complained of painful and frustrating physiological symptoms when playing the Virtual Boy. Bill Frischling, writing for The Washington Post, experienced "dizziness, nausea and headaches."<ref name="WaPo" /> Reviewers attributed the problems to both the monochromatic display and uncomfortable ergonomics.

Nintendo, in the years after Virtual Boy's demise, has been frank about its failure. Howard Lincoln, chairman of Nintendo of America, said flatly that the Virtual Boy "just failed."<ref name="Boyer" />

Legacy

The commercial demise of the Virtual Boy was considered to be the catalyst that led to Yokoi being driven from Nintendo.<ref name="N-Sider Profiles">Template:Cite web</ref> Nevertheless, The New York Times maintained that Yokoi kept a close relationship with Nintendo<ref name="NYTimes - Gunpei Yokoi, Chief Designer Of Game Boy, Is Dead at 56">Template:Cite news</ref> despite Yokoi having later created a rival handheld system for Bandai. According to Game Over, the company laid the blame for the machine's faults directly on the creator.<ref name="autogenerated1993"/>

Although considered a failure in the traditional sense, the Virtual Boy did little to alter Nintendo's development approach and focus on innovation.<ref name="Boyer" /> If anything, it encouraged a more open-ended metric for success than finances or sales.

Because Nintendo only shipped 770,000 Virtual Boy units worldwide, it is considered a valuable collector's item.<ref name=wired>Template:Cite web</ref>

During the lead-in to the release of Nintendo's 3DS, Shigeru Miyamoto discussed what he felt were the issues with the Virtual Boy. One was the actual use of the three dimensional effects - while it was designed to render wireframe graphics, it was generally used to separate two-dimensional games into different planes separated by depth. Further, Miyamoto stated that the graphics were not as appealing, and while developing the Nintendo 64, had ruled out the use of wireframe graphics as too sparse to draw players. Finally, he stated that he perceived the Virtual Boy as a novelty that should not have used the Nintendo license so prominently.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Template:As of, Virtual Boy still has software being developed by the homebrew community at Planet Virtual Boy forums, with the first ever Flash cartridge designed by Richard Hutchinson for purchase, the "FlashBoy" (フラッシュ ボーイ - FurasshuBōi). The Flashboy has since been updated to have save features in the FlashBoy+ which is currently available for purchase as of 2012. <ref name="Boyer" /> While the console itself failed in many regards, its focus on peripherals and haptic technology reemerged in later years.<ref name="Velvet">"Introduction." Velvet Light Trap.64 (2009): 1-2. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref> The hope of developing a virtual reality gaming platform has considerably outlived the Virtual Boy itself.<ref name="Boyer" />

Games

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Nintendo initially showcased three games. They planned to release three titles at launch, and two or three per month after that.<ref name="Rafferty" />

Due to the short lifespan of the system, only 22 games were released. Of them, 19 games were released in the Japanese market, while only 14 were released in North America.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

When asked if Virtual Boy games were going to be available for download on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told gaming web site Kotaku that he could not answer, as he was unfamiliar with the platform. He noted that, given his lack of familiarity, he would be hard-pressed to make the case for inclusion of the games on the Virtual Console.<ref>http://kotaku.com/#!5690257/argue-for-a-virtual-boy-store-on-the-nintendo-3ds-if-you-can</ref>

Technical information

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The Virtual Boy system uses a pair of 1×224 linear arrays (one per eye) and rapidly scans the array across the eye's field of view using flat oscillating mirrors. These mirrors vibrate back and forth at a very high speed, thus the mechanical humming noise from inside the unit. Each Virtual Boy game cartridge has a yes/no option to automatically pause every 15–30 minutes so that the player may take a break.

One speaker per ear provides the player with audio.<ref name="Powell">Powell, Doug. "A Virtual Backlash." Computing Canada Dec 21 1994: 1,1,4. ABI/INFORM Global. Web. 24 May 2012.</ref>

Display

A gamer using the Virtual Boy eyepiece.

The Virtual Boy, which uses an oscillating mirror to transform a single line of pixels into a full field of pixels, requires high-performance LEDs in order to function properly. Because each pixel is only in use for a tiny fraction of a second (384 pixels wide, 50.2 Hz scan rate = approximately 52 µs per scanline), high peak brightness is needed to make the virtual display bright and comfortable for the user to view. The two-screen system demanded a fast refresh rate, unlike the original Game Boy which had blurry motion, so using an LCD was not an option.

Control

The Virtual Boy, being a system with heavy emphasis on three-dimensional movement, needed a controller that could operate along a Z axis. The Virtual Boy's controller was an attempt to implement dual digital "D-pads" to control elements in the aforementioned 3D environment.

The Virtual Boy controller

The controller itself is shaped like an "M" (similar to a Gamecube controller).Template:Citation needed One holds onto either side of the controller and the part that dips down in the middle contains the battery pack. There are six buttons on the controller (A, B, Start, Select, L and R), the two D-pads, and the system's "on/off" switch. The two directional pads are located on either side of the controller at the top. The "A" and "B" buttons are located below the pad on the right side and the "Start" and "Select" buttons are located in the same spot on the left side. What would normally be called "shoulder buttons" ("L" and "R") are located behind the area where the pads are, on the back of the controller, functioning more as triggers.

In more traditional 2-dimensional games, the two directional pads are interchangeable.Template:Citation needed For others with a more 3D environment, like Red Alarm, 3D Tetris, or Teleroboxer, each pad controls a different feature. The symmetry of the controller also allows left-handed gamers to reverse the controls (similar to the Atari Lynx).Template:Citation needed

One of the unique features of the controller is the extendable power supply that slides onto the back. It houses the six AA batteries required to power the system. This can be substituted with a wall adapter, though a "slide on" attachment is required for the switchout. Once the slide on adapter is installed, a power adapter can be attached to provide constant power.

Connectivity

The underside of the Virtual Boy showing various inputs and outputs

During development, Nintendo promised the ability to link systems for competitive play.<ref name="Rafferty" /> The system's EXT (extension) port, located on the underside of the system below the controller port, was never officially supported since no "official" multiplayer games were ever published, nor was an official link cable released. (Although Waterworld and Faceball were going to use the EXT port for multiplayer play, the multiplayer features in the former were removed<ref>http://www.vr32.de/modules/interviews/?3</ref> and the latter was canceled.)Template:Citation needed

Specifications


Hardware specifications
Processor Customized NEC V810 (P/N uPD70732)
32-bit RISC Processor @ 20 MHz (18 MIPS)

1 KB instruction cache

Memory 128 KB dual-port VRAM
128 KB of DRAM
64 KB WRAM (PSRAM)
Display
(× 2)
Reflection Technologies Inc. (RTI) Model P4 – mechanically scanned, monochrome, red, LED display
384 x 224 pixel resolution (produced by scanning a 1 × 224 LED array)
Four simultaneous red shades (black + 3 different red shades, chosen from a set of approximately 32,000)
50.2 Hz double-buffered frame rate
Power 6 AA Batteries or 10VDC at 350mA AC Adapter/Tap
(third-party Performance Adaptor DC 9V 500mA)
Sound 16-bit Stereo
Controller 6 buttons and 2 D-pads
uses NES controller protocol
Serial Port 8 pin cable
Hardware
Part
Numbers
VUE-001 Virtual Boy Unit
VUE-003 Stand
VUE-005 Controller
VUE-006 Game Pak
VUE-007 Battery Pack
VUE-010 Eyeshade
VUE-011 AC Adapter Tap ("Use With Super NES AC Adapter No. SNS-002 Only")
VUE-012 Eyeshade Holder
VUE-014 Red & Black Stereo Headphones
Weight 750 grams
Dimensions 8.5"H × 10"W × 4.3"D
Cartridge specifications
128 megabit addressable ROM space (4–16 megabit ROM used in released games)
128 megabit addressable RAM space (0–8 kilobyte Battery Backed RAM in released games)
128 megabit addressable expansion space (unused in any released games)
Expansion interrupt available to the cartridge
Left and right audio signals pass through cartridge
60-pin connector

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See also

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Notes

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References

External links

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