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28 Years of Christmas
1995: Not All Nintendo Portables are Created Equal
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on November 28, 2002   |   Episode 4 (Show Archive)  

The Scoop: When the Virtual Boy was announced at the Tokyo Game Show, I was perplexed. Later, when Nintendo announced that it would cost over $150, I was dumbfounded. But nothing could prepare me for the moment I stepped into the dark, enclosed room at the Winter Consumer Electronic Show and actually play this non-portable system. The red on black was almost blinding, the effect, while interesting, was not at all what I was expecting. It's almost as if Nintendo was daring us to play this thing. When the system was released it landed with an audible thud. Nintendo expected the most; after all, their GameBoy was (and still is) the best selling system of all time. Slow sales would plague the system throughout its short life, and once deceased, the Virtual Boy would go on to be Nintendo's first large scale failure.

The Other Side: The Other Side: I'm sure contributing editor Ferry Groenendijk would have a different take on this. After all, he wrote an entire site about this miserable non-portable. Nintendo never once claimed this system was going to be a portable, so perhaps it's unfair of me to judge it by what it's not. Having said that, the Virtual Boy is really unique. It is the only system of it's kind, and while it deserved to fail, it's not a bad collectible. So, even though Nintendo never really knew what to do with this, it is still worth owning.

The Impact: While the Virtual Boy was not the next generation for consoles, or even portables, it was one of the silliest devices in game history. And frankly, if you think about it, this industry is littered with interesting products that have failed. Virtual Boy was just the biggest of these flops. Its failure may have ushered in a safety era, one where companies are afraid of releasing risky inventions. The GameBoy Advance, however, was not a dangerous move on Nintendo's part, and even that Dance Dance Revolution pad was proven in the arcade well before it was released on the PlayStation. So perhaps the death of the
Virtual Boy is actually giving us less fodder for humor these days. That's not good for our children, and really, we need to think about the children.

Where Are They Now?: Nintendo has never tried anything like the Virtual Boy again; they ended up sticking to tried and true products, like the GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance. Outside of the portable world, Nintendo has yet to regain the number one position. The Nintendo 64 barely held its own through its short life, and the GameCube does well in Japan, but is still number three in the U.S. Even though Nintendo can't seem to kick start their console market, they have been able to churn out high quality games, including Metroid Prime, Mario Sunshine, and the upcoming Zelda. So everything works out in the end, unless you paid $180 for the Virtual Boy.


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