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Nintendo 'Traumatized' By 3D Virtual Boy, But '(Laughs)' About It Now

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The Virtual Boy is one of Nintendo's biggest flops, an experiment in stereoscopic 3D that left a bad taste in the mouths of some of the game maker's employees, leaving them with hesitation that the Nintendo 3DS could succeed.

In the latest "Iwata Asks," the interviews conducted by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, he asks the designer of the Nintendo 3DS, Kenichi Sugino, and the system's producer, Hideki Konno, how the glasses-free 3D handheld came to be. Sugino was involved the creation of the Virtual Boy, released in 1995, a failed experiment he says "traumatized" him and made other Nintendo employees fearful of 3D gaming.

Konno and Iwata talk briefly about experimental 3D versions of Luigi's Mansion and Mario Kart, two products that were never released. Konno remembers it fondly, saying "It had depth, so it really pulled you into the world of the game. I thought it was great, but…"


"But we just couldn't get past the problem of how to sell it," Iwata says. Then they move on to Virtual Boy memories.

Iwata: Sugino-san, you actually worked on Virtual Boy. (laughs)

Konno: Because of those hard experiences, when I told people at Nintendo how fun 3D games are, I couldn't get them to immediately believe in the potential.

Iwata: Even though Nintendo had continued its efforts in 3D, lots of people in the company were perhaps full of doubt. (laughs)

Konno: Yes. I'd propose something, and they'd be like, "Huh? Are we still doing that?" (laughs) I decided to at least experiment. First we made it possible to represent Mario and Luigi in 3D. Then I talked to the development staff of Mario Kart Wii and asked if they could make it in 3D, and it went relatively well. A few weeks later, we could display Mario Kart Wii in 3D on the newest 3D panel. When I saw it, the 3D looked more natural than I had expected. I thought it was good and had some people at the company look at it.

Iwata: I talked about this the other day with Itoi-san, too. Until we experimented, not everyone was ready to give their whole-hearted consent to going with 3D. What did you think about that, Sugino-san?

Sugino: I, too, had been through some really tough times with 3D. I think I was traumatized by it! (laughs) So the moment I heard the 3D idea, I instinctively reacted against it. I even said, "No, let's not do that."

Konno: Oh, that's right! (laughs)

Sugino: But when I saw the demo, I thought, "Wow! Amazing!" And when other staff members asked me what I thought, I told them that if even someone like me, who had been traumatized, thought it was amazing, then everyone else would definitely think it was amazing, too. It was surprising to see 3D images with my bare eyes.


Photo by Kitsuney @ Flickr.

The Luigi's Mansion 3D That Never Was [Nintendo]