Can Nintendo Switch Do VR Right?

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Can Nintendo Switch Do VR Right?
February 9, 2017
Above: Fan-made mockup of Switch virtual reality.

 

Since virtual reality has come to the masses via PSVR and smartphone headsets, everyone is wondering about the future of this technology. What games will go VR? When will it become more affordable? Will other consoles get it?

 

The Nintendo Switch is the next big console, ready to hit shelves on March 3rd. Some detailed patents that surfaced in December showed a VR headset for the Switch, sparking lots of curiosity and criticism. Nintendo has refrained from confirming a VR accessory for the Switch, but lots of executives have said they’re interested in the technology.

 

Most recently, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima commented on Switch virtual reality in an interview with TIME.

 

The interviewer asked, “Is the launch version of Switch powerful enough to support [virtual reality]?”

 

Kimishima responded: “The very simple answer is yes. We’ve said this before, and I feel like we’re saying it a lot, but we are interested and doing research into this field. The question, of course, is ‘What is the best way to bring virtual reality to our customers as a form of entertainment?’ Not just, ‘Hey, look! It’s realistic!’ or whatever, but what is the best way to use this technology to bring something fun to our consumer base? We are definitely looking at that.”

 

Can Nintendo really make VR work on the low res Switch?

 

It’s nice to see Nintendo is taking its time to thoughtfully develop its VR software, rather than releasing it as soon as possible to get consumers to gobble it up. Hopefully when it releases, we’ll see the fruits of Nintendo’s labor in an enjoyable virtual reality experience. But players are already wondering if that is possible with the Switch.

According to the patent (pictured above), the Switch tablet would slide into the VR headset, which would be strapped in front of the player’s eyes. The concept is similar to current smart phone headsets, albeit bulkier, and it’s simple enough. However, people are asking how the Switch could run entertaining virtual reality from such a low resolution.

 

In portable mode, the game tablet runs in 720p and 60fps at its maximum. That alone sounds like subpar VR, but it gets even worse when you realize Breath of the Wild, the Switch’s premier title, can only run at 30fps.

 

The low resolution made me very skeptical as well, but then I thought about the games Nintendo would likely bring to VR.

 

Of course, Breath of the Wild is a top contender. There’s also Super Mario OdysseyMario Kart 8 DeluxeSplatoon 2, and Yooka-Laylee, among others. All these games are presented in beautiful 3D worlds, but their art styles are still very stylized, as is the Nintendo way. Maybe these games would actually look great in 720p VR. Maybe.

 

Or maybe Nintendo will hold off on VR until the Switch’s successor can do the whole hybrid console thing in much higher definition. Either way, I can’t wait to see where virtual reality is headed.

 

What do you think about Switch virtual reality? Would it be a crappy low res experience, or would the stylized graphics make it work? Let us know in the comments.

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