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Nintendo returning to virtual reality, briefing suggests

Tue 2 Feb 2016

Japanese gaming giant Nintendo is reportedly exploring virtual reality (VR), but is yet to reveal concrete development plans.

According to games analyst Serkan Toto, the company acknowledged at a recent investor briefing that it was ‘looking’ into the emerging sector.

It is unclear what path the company will take into the nascent technology, having previously branched into the space, albeit unsuccessfully, in the mid-90s. Its Virtual Boy 3D video game, which was discontinued after five months in Japan, was marketed as a type of virtual reality. Despite employing certain VR techniques, it still used the traditional home console setup and did not incorporate any body/gameplay feedback.

In a 2014 interview, Nintendo game designer and producer Shigeru Miyamoto had confirmed that the organisation had been experimenting with VR since the Virtual Boy days. He also suggested that the 3DS design had VR in mind, with its stereoscopic 3D technology.

“As game designers, we at Nintendo are interested in VR technology and what it can do,” said Miyamoto. However, he was uneasy about the introvert nature of the technology, having strived through other systems to encourage ‘living room’ gaming – “to be fun not only for the person who’s playing, but also for the people who are watching.”

“When you think about what virtual reality is, which is one person putting on some goggles and playing by themselves kind of over in a corner, or maybe they go into a separate room […] that’s in direct contrast with what it is we’re trying to achieve,” he added.

This week’s briefing reported Nintendo’s latest financials [PDF], announcing that its net annual profit had fallen by almost a third (31.9%) to ¥40.55 billion (approx. £230 million). Over the last three months of 2015, the firm sold only 1.87 million Wii U consoles, and 3.6 million 3DS handsets. Overall Wii U sales now top at 12.6 million, with software sales reaching 79.3 million units – its best-seller Splatoon marking four million of these.

During the briefing Nintendo kept quiet about its upcoming smartphone gaming launch, Miitomo, expected for release this March. This software debut will be the first of an expected half a dozen titles in development at DeNA, Nintendo’s mobile services partner.

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