Can you survive An Unholy Return: The 31 Games of Halloween?
A Brief History of Gaming
Virtual Boy at Winter CES '95: Oh, Fuck That!
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 10, 2012   |   Episode 17 (Show Archive)  

EGM Issue 1
Dramatic re-enactment of my time playing Virtual Boy at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show 1995!
There used to be a time when the Consumer Electronics Show actually mattered. Obviously it still means something to a certain industry (the makers of television, car stereos and booth babes), but the days of average video gamers taking notice have long since passed. These days you're lucky to get a release date confirmation out of Sony or Microsoft, let alone an E3-sized announcement. It used to be so different. But then the Winter Consumer Electronics Show met the Nintendo Virtual Boy.

In the winter of 1995 I was a junior in high school and attending the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) for the third time. Despite being closed to anybody under the

This year's big CES announcement? Kinect on the PC for $250!
age of 18, I was able to sneak in all three times with little more than a doctored birth certificate, a high school newspaper press pass and an impeccably maintained goatee. These were the days before nosey convention staffers could easily verify facts on the internet, so it wasn't like I had to hire Ocean's Eleven to pull off this scheme.

By 1995 I was a seasoned pro; I knew where to go, who to see and what to expect. I'm talking about big parties, huge news, deep price cuts and tons of great new titles for my favorite game systems. This was the year that both the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation would launch, plus there were already rumblings of Nintendo's brand new 64-bit super system. I expected the kind of pomp and circumstance that would make me pimple-faced buddies at home jealous. Instead I got the video game equivalent of blue balls.

Die Hard Game Fan are known for two things: Great cover art and popular convention booths!
It turns out that neither Sony nor Sega were ready to show off their 32-bitters in any large capacity, instead leaving that for the first-ever Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) just a few months later. My only real shot at experiencing this new hardware was to hang out at the Die Hard Game Fan booth, which attracted gamers with several imported systems.

But Nintendo was different; they promised brand new hardware at the Winter CES. Would Project Reality (which later became the Ultra 64 and then turned into the Nintendo 64) make an appearance? Would Nintendo

Project Reality sounds like the worst TV show of all time (besides Daisy of Love, of course)!
show off the new Game Boy? Nope! Instead they opted to introduce the United States to the Virtual Boy.

This was not the first time Nintendo showed off their non-handheld eye killer. Months earlier the company shocked the world with its unveiling at the Shoshinkai Software Exhibition. But news moved slowly in 1994 and none of the game magazines of the day were able to explain it in a way that made any sense to my 16 year old brain. Without screenshots and hands-on previews, it was hard for me to come to grips with Nintendo's newest console.

But who am I to doubt Nintendo? Up until that time they had produced some of my favorite games and consoles. What's more, the prospect of having a new portable created by none other than Gunpei Yokoi (the creator of the Game Boy) was simply too much for my teenage body to resist. I would have spent

Long lines at a Nintendo booth will never go away!
all three days standing in line if I had to, that's how committed I was to seeing what promised to be a mind-blowing experience.

Thankfully I didn't have to wait three days to see it, but it certainly felt like I did. The slow-moving line stretched around Nintendo's booth, showing pictures and models to hint at what we were about to see. Everybody around me was on pins and needles, intrigued by what could possibly be on the other side of that door. All we knew is that there was only enough room for a dozen people at a time, barely enough to keep the line moving. As we neared the door an attractive woman handed out the press packet and welcomed us to the Virtual Boy display. This was it; we were about to see the next generation in portable video games.

We were led into a dark room full of Virtual Boy kiosks. Each system had its own game, complete with a quick-glance guide showing off the buttons and other information. We each stuck our heads in these goggles, as if we were

If you stare at this picture too long it will damage your eyes!
getting ready to sink a battleship. What met me on the other side was a simple pinball game full of eye-piercing 3D effects. After a few minutes I was ready to try out the next game, a boxing game with giant robots. I bounced between the games trying to get a sense of what the system had to offer. A few minutes later we were being rushed out of the booth to make room for the next crowd of unsuspecting suckers.

As I pulled my eyes away from the screen for the last time, I was met with an uneasy feeling and a migraine headache. It

Maybe this story would have gone a different direction had I been led to this fetching Virtual Boy kiosk!
felt like a flash bang grenade had just gone off as the Nintendo staff opened up the door leading back to the convention hall. My eyes barely had time to adjust as I stumbled through the crowd like a drunken oaf looking for cover. I rubbed my eyes and stood away from the booth, desperately trying to digest what just happened to me. It felt like I had been kidnapped by a terrorist gang and was just let go, only without the fun and excitement.

I regained my composure and looked around. It was easy to tell who were the Virtual Boy survivors, they all had a dazed and confused look. All except for one guy, who broke the silence by blurting out the single most honest comment I've heard at a convention: "Wait ... this thing is two hundred bucks? TWO HUNDRED BUCKS?!? OH, FUCK THAT!" In my head he received

My full account eventually went into the Ocean Breeze, Aberdeen HIgh School's long running newspaper!
a well-deserved slow clap, but I'm sure that's just me embellishing what happened seventeen years ago.

Oh, fuck that. This was a sentiment shared by everybody that spent most of the day waiting in line to see the Virtual Boy. I went away disillusioned, rightly concerned about the future of Nintendo. And I wasn't alone. NEXT Generation magazine called the American debut "baffling." Die Hard Game Fan, Electronic Gaming Monthly and even GamePro were all dumbfounded by the experience, simultaneously underwhelmed and at a loss on how to cover this massive fail.

These days there's no reason for games journalists to bother with the Consumer Electronics Show!
This was the last major video game debut held at the Consumer Electronics Show. After Nintendo packed up their geodesic dome and Virtual Boy display units, they officially pulled out of the Consumer Electronics Show and became a big champion of E3. Only a few months later Sega would make everybody forget the Virtual Boy debacle by announcing the surprise launch for their 32-bit Saturn. Eventually the Virtual Boy came out, but a high price and poor software doomed the system from the go. These days Nintendo never talks about the Virtual Boy, even when it's completely relevant.

Sometimes I wonder if that man ever bought a Virtual Boy. I did, though certainly not at the $180 asking price. To this day I still think of that guy's outburst, always associating it with Nintendo's bad decisions. The Wii not in HD? Oh, fuck that! You can't use more than one of those Wii U controllers on the same system? Oh, fuck that! You're seriously going to try to sell me a gimmicky 3D system that gives me headaches ... again? OH, FUCK THAT!



Mario, Mega Man, Lolo & More!

The Best Reviewed 16-Bit Games!


Snake Pass


Little Nightmare

comments powered by Disqus