Many, many years ago, Nintendo was toying with the idea of Virtual Reality hardware. The project was being worked on alongside Argonaut Software founder Jez San, and was dubbed the Super Visor. Here's a snippet of San talking about the project a few years back.
We had built a Virtual Reality gaming system for them called Super Visor that would've been awesome, but instead they canned our project - which was full colour, had head tracking and 3D texture mapping - and released the ill-fated Virtual Boy in its place.
Outside of that one blurb, we hadn't really heard much about the Super Visor. Today that changes, thanks to new info from Mr. San that appeared in a Metro interview.
I worked on a VR machine called the Super Visor for Nintendo, but unfortunately, we fell out. A guy called Mr Gunpei Yokoi cancelled our project in favour of the Virtual Boy, which we used to call the Virtual Dog because it was so bad. He made a bet in the wrong direction, cancelled our project and his one was awful. It was a bad decision.
We had full colour and head tracking at a time where no-one else did, but the Super Visor was cancelled in favour of a system with no head tracking and red graphics. It was like the Vive headset that’s on sale today but made 20 years earlier. Of course, it wasn’t quite as good because the Vive has better screens now, but our’s was made a long time ago. We almost finished the Super Visor and it was cancelled to do the Virtual Boy, which was a shame. VR gaming could have happened 20 years ago if they had kept us on.
To use VR you have to wear some dorky thing. You look like a fool wearing it. Also, it’s unsafe because your eyes are covered and you can’t see what’s happening in the real world, so you might slice your hand on a knife or fall down some stairs. Nintendo and Hasbro both shied away from doing VR systems because of product liability laws which meant they could get sued for gazillions if someone hurt themselves whilst wearing it.
They were very consumer-friendly companies that didn’t want to be sued for anything, so we had to wait 20 years for Facebook to have the guts to buy Oculus and say – perhaps thought naively – that it can do VR without getting sued.
Oh man, what could have been. I wonder if things would have worked out better for Nintendo if they went with the Super Visor instead of the Virtual Boy. Not surprising to see safety being a major concern for Nintendo, but sad to know their worries kept this project from ever seeing launch.