It has been some time since we saw Nintendo dabble with a VR headset, and if you own a Switch, you’ll get to see the latest take. Spoiler: it’s not red and black.
Virtual reality may seem like the new hot entertainment experience gracing the presence of shopping centres and video game experiences of people with money, but the post 2013-era of video games isn’t the only time we’ve seen VR. It actually arrived in the 90s.
It was a time when companies were experimenting with what some saw as the next big thing in entertainment. Even though the technology was very new and very ahead of its time, virtual reality was an area where people dabbled.
Sega had one that wasn’t released to home consoles, Sony had one that didn’t really take off at the time, as well as a handful of other players, but the virtual reality of the 90s never really played out.
Headsets were expensive, titles existed in the handful, and in general, VR — as cool as the idea of entering a digital world sounded — didn’t really eventuate.
But that didn’t stop Nintendo from trying something in the mid-90s, releasing the Virtual Boy, a rather unusual take on the portable GameBoy it was known for that plunged your view into a red and black headset revealing an equally red monochromatic display for games. You had a controller at your hands, and the idea was that it was a virtual reality experience, but the reality was a little bleaker, with a 3D red and black gaming world and titles that weren’t all that exciting, even after you got over the occasional headache.
Nintendo’s first VR experiment for the home, the Virtual Boy was also one of Nintendo’s biggest failures, on the market for a little over six months, with only 22 game titles released.
In short, Nintendo’s first experiment with something themed by virtual reality was a bit of a flop.
But it won’t be the only time Nintendo has a bit of a play.
As virtual reality makes its return once more — as the Oculus and Vive and Daydream headsets start to rock up, alongside the HoloLens and other Mixed Reality devices — Nintendo is giving VR another stab, announcing that it will be adding a cardboard take on VR with an addition to its Labo kits for the Nintendo Switch.
You might remember the Labo in the past year, as it’s been a rather playful concept for Nintendo. In essence, it’s a laboratory made of cardboard creations that changes the way gamers play their Switch, adding extra functionality through cardboard-crafted accessories and peripherals.
Come April, Nintendo’s Labo VR will do the same, but do it in a virtual reality kind of way, creating cardboard virtual reality goggles and allowing you to mix them together with other Labo experiences to change the way you play the Nintendo Switch.
There will be two Labo VR kits when Nintendo brings these to store shelves on April 12, with the “Starter Set” arriving with the game and all the parts needed to built the VR goggles and a cardboard gaming blaster, while the Nintendo Labo “VR Kit” will include both of those things, plus extra pieces needed for other Labo VR experiences, an elephant, an in-game camera for exploring the ocean, and more. Nintendo will also be selling the extras in the VR Kit as expansion sets, just in case you only want one alongside the Starter Set, and want to save money.
In the end, each kit will essentially form around the Nintendo Switch — which you have to have to make Labo work — and the Labo cardboard VR goggles, which are necessary for the Nintendo Labo VR experience.
The other great news is that these experiences won’t be in red and black, and you’ll see a full colour virtual reality experience when you’re using the blaster to fight aliens or being a virtual elephant, you’ll actually have a clue as to what you’re doing, and not try to work it out from fifty shade of red to black.
Australians can expect to find the Nintendo Labo VR Kits on April 12, where it’s expected to start from $60 and reach all the way to around $120.