My strongest memory of the Virtual Boy: almost buying one at Blockbuster for $20. The Virtual Boy wasn’t on my radar until my collectionist urge started growing, and even then, I couldn’t justify buying a machine that made my eyes hurt. Benj Edwards does a terrific job tracking the history of Virtual Boy, how Nintendo published a piece of hardware even they weren’t really confident in. Also, I had no idea Game Boy/Virtual Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi wanted to retire! (It makes you wonder how many times Miyamoto has thought about it, only to stay on.)
Nintendo chief Yamauchi approached 1994 with trepidation. The whole industry knew the year would see the launch of two major next-gen consoles, the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation, while Nintendo’s own next-gen contender, the Ultra 64 (later renamed Nintendo 64), would not be ready until 1996.
After the Virtual Boy degraded from a wearable VR system into a tabletop oddity, Nintendo probably should have cancelled the project. But with tough competition in mind, Yamauchi encouraged R&D1 to complete the Virtual Boy and ready it for release as soon as possible to buy time prior to the launch of the Nintendo 64. “It’s clear from the people I talked to that many people in the marketing department saw the Virtual Boy as a niche system that could fill a market gap, and thus pressed to hasten its release,” says Makino.