Old school VR by Sega and Nintendo

Did you know that in 1995 Nintendo released a portable VR console, called the Virtual Boy ? With a monochrome stereoscopic HMD with a 384×224 resolution, it was priced at 180$ and reportedly Nintendo sold 700’000 units. The failure of the system had them discontinue the project one year later.

A bit sooner, Sega also tried to release a VR console [and wikipedia here] in 1994, with LCD screens and inertial trackers:

The Sega VR console combined full color LCD screens and stereo sound. Weight was distrusted evenly, and the device was reported to be comfortable. Also, unlike the Virtual Boy, it was truly portable, not requiring a cumbersome tripod for enjoyable game play.


Due to limited resources, strategic planning, the complete and utter failure of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, underwhelming graphics and performance, as well as motion sickness, Sega was wise in not bringing this cliché console to the market.

The company claimed the project was stopped because the VR was so real users would move while wearing the headset and injure themselves.

Hum. Lol.. =)

[update : here’s a video of the Nintendo Virtual Boy ad] [update : here’s a video of the Sega VR debut at CES 1993]

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  1. I remember when these made it to public knowledge. There were many concerns raised about the health issues regarding these VR peripherals which made these gamming companies back off using these VR technologies.

    I was participating in the discussions that were happening back then over the Usenet discussion group SCI.VIRTUAL-WORLDS. One of the main concerns many of us had was related to the very bad display resolution these HMDs were using. It was a concern that the use of these devices by youngsters could harm their visual system growth and give rise to a generation of adults with various vision problems. No one really know if such could have been the case or not as there where very few studies (and still aren’t many) relating to these particular concerns. Such studies are hard to conduct as they require the study to spawn over many years.

    Anyway, the concern alone was enough of a doubt that the game companies got scared away from using VR hardware in fear of facing many possible law actions.

    There were probably other reasons such as poor market sales, while if the 700,000 units is verified, it was quite some performance for VR hardware sales!

    This was a very captivating era for those who where active in the VR field back in the 90’s 🙂

  2. If you check the Wikipedia article you’ll see that the Sega VR wasn’t a console. It was intended to be an add-on for Megadrive/Genesis and later for the Saturn.

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