Nintendo is a company that likes to reinvent the way people think about gaming. Even to this day with their adherence to motion controls and their portable home console – the Switch.
The Japanese gaming giants have dedicated themselves to the cause of gaming from their early roots in arcade cabinets and hanafuda cards. With all this pioneering of new technologies, there’s bound to be a few blunders, like the ill-fated Nintendo Gamecube discs.
Not all of their commercially unsuccessful products were a bad idea though. Sometimes Nintendo was just trying to showcase technology that the world wasn’t ready for. Consider these times when Nintendo was way ahead of the technological curve, and they didn’t even know it.
One of Nintendo’s most famous flops attempted to bring VR into our front rooms before it was cool. Way back in 1995 Nintendo released the Virtual Boy, a headset and controller combination, that put the player right in the middle of their favourite titles in full 3D.
Problem was, the technology wasn’t quite there yet. The headset was so heavy that it couldn’t be placed on the player’s head and instead came with its own stand. The stand itself was awkwardly sized and resulted in many players needing to hunch over to properly use it. Because of the weight and seating position, it was not medically advised to play the Virtual Boy for long periods of time.
On top of that graphics were only available in one colour. Red. Literally, everything was red, and movement was often nauseating, creating further medical problems. If there’s anything to learn from PlayStation’s new VR system, it’s that there was a future for this technology in mainstream gaming.
Nintendo arrived at the party a little too early but imagine how immersive VR could be today if the company had stuck to it.
If you’re of a younger generation this will be hard to believe, but it wasn’t always easy to take pictures. Digital cameras were their own exclusive and expensive products and they weren’t as portable as they are today. So in 1998, Nintendo attempted to breach this market with the Gameboy Camera.
The camera slid into the Gameboy cartridge slot and was at the time of release, the world’s smallest digital camera. The pictures were grainy and only available in black and white but it was still pretty impressive. Nowadays you need a filter for that effect…
Even more impressive, you could take photos of yourself and doodle or place digital stickers on them. It was similar to Snapchat in that regard, except if you wanted to share it with your friends you had to buy additional hardware and print them off.
Still, Snapchat didn’t come along for another 13 years, and CEO and Founder Evan Spiegel is now worth an estimated $2.8bn. A lesson in perseverance for Nintendo perhaps.
The Power Glove
The Nintendo Wii is one of the best selling consoles of all time. It also revolutionised gaming with its motion control technology. All across the board, a huge success for Nintendo.
This wasn’t the first time the Japanese firm tried to get us up off our sofas. In the very early days of home gaming, Nintendo was already experimenting with motion controls.
In 1988 Nintendo released the Power Pad, which was a sort of early mock-up of the Wii Fit board. A year later they took the market further with a piece of technology that inspired its own movie, the Power Glove.
The Power Glove was a controller you wore on your arm that combined both motion controls and regular controls. There were a few too many buttons on the device which made it difficult to manage. It was also another case of technology not quite being there as developers found it difficult to supply the new control system.
There were only ever two games released for the Power Glove and neither of them worked very well. This led to the products commercial failure but a lot of the technology used can still be seen in a modern Wii remote. Proving that the issue was with the execution rather than the idea, which is a concept Nintendo still use today.
Despite these obvious duds, Nintendo is still one of the most innovative and iconic companies in the gaming industry. These products are the cost of experimentation. But for every Virtual Boy, Gameboy Camera, or Power Glove, you have a Wii, a Switch, and a Nintendo DS.
So to that, we say: Keep innovating, Nintendo!