Nintendo’s first attempt at 3D handheld gaming — the Virtual Boy — turns 20 years old today. Virtual Boy launched in Japan on July 21, 1995 and less than a month later in the United States.
Virtual Boy had a number of well-documented problems including a prohibitive price for a “portable” gaming system (it retailed for $180 at launch, the equivalent of $280 today), a limited number of titles and the unfortunate propensity to cause headaches.
Virtual Boy was a financial failure. Nintendo pumped an estimated $25 million into marketing but only sold 770,000 units throughout the system’s lifetime.
But the system also pushed the idea of a stereoscopic 3D gaming handheld forward. Maybe Nintendo would have still gone on to create the 3DS anyway but the company’s willingness to experiment with new technology, rather than hide from it, was on full display with the Virtual Boy.