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Modern VR tech gives retro Nintendo games a second chance

Emulator created to play games from Nintendo's failed Virtual Boy console from the mid-'90s

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 3:34pm

Failed virtual reality (VR) gaming from the 1990s might have just received a new lease of life, with one tech guru finding a way of playing retro games on brand new devices.

A user on the social sharing site Reddit has worked out a way to play games from Nintendo's failed Virtual Boy console using modern devices from Google and Samsung. The anonymous user - known as The-King-of-Spain - has created an emulator (a program which recreates an older computer operating system) in order to play the Virtual Boy games.

The user explained on Reddit how to install the emulator using an Android phone, the app Retroarch and the Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR headset.

"It's pretty cool to see Virtual Boy games in their full stereoscopic glory, but the added depth doesn't seem to add much value gameplay-wise," said The-King-of-Spain on Reddit.

"In the grand scheme of things, this is the cheapest way to play Virtual Boy games in 3-D. I'm wondering if there are any other consoles that would benefit from emulation in VR."

The Virtual Boy was an early attempt at virtual reality gaming and was released by Japanese gaming company Nintendo in 1995. The console was considered a commercial failure and was discontinued less than a year after it was launched.

According to Steve Bailey, senior games analyst at IHS Technology, the Virtual Boy failed on several fronts as it was too expensive, offered a poor experience, and its games didn't convince users.

"It's very easy to sell the idea of VR, but its technical and commercial realisation is rife with challenges, as Nintendo discovered first-hand all those years ago," Bailey says.

Nintendo has not announced any public plans for virtual reality games, but may do so in the future.

"In the long-term, I'd see Nintendo making games for VR, but not in the short-term. This is because Nintendo prefers to turn a profit on its hardware, and make innovative use of reliable, cost-effective tech," explained Bailey. "I don't think that VR is currently in a position to represent either of these things to Nintendo just yet."

There are high expectations on VR. Several devices, including the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, will be released this year. CCS Insight predicts over 24 million VR devices will be sold by 2018.