Miyamoto Interested in Virtual Reality, But Sees a Conflict With Wii U

Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto shares his thoughts on the emergence of virtual reality.

Photo courtesy of Callum Underwood

When a photo of Shigeru Miyamoto checking out the Oculus Rift at E3 last week began circulating, it begged the question: What does the legendary Nintendo designer think of virtual reality? In an interview with Time, he shared his perspective on the emerging technology both as a game designer and as an executive of a company trying to sell the Wii U.

"We've been doing our own experiments with virtual reality dating back to the Virtual Boy," he said, referencing Nintendo's failed VR system released in 1995. "And even to some degree, the 3DS was designed with a little bit of this in mind with its stereoscopic 3D. So we're always looking at hardware and assessing what's possible."

He pointed out that, while the price of VR has begun to drop, "It's still not at a cost basis that makes it easy for everyone to purchase as a mass-market product."

"As game designers, we at Nintendo are interested in VR technology and what it can do, but at the same time what we're trying to do with Wii U is to create games for everyone in the living room," he continued. "We want the Wii U to be a game system that brings video gamers into the living room."

"So from Nintendo's perspective, there's interest in the technology, but we think it might be better suited to some sort of attraction style of entertainment." -- Shigeru Miyamoto

Nintendo, and Miyamoto specifically, have talked before about how Wii U is a system designed for group fun in the living room. But with VR currently coming in the form of a headset that you strap to your head (thereby blocking your view of everything else in the room), Miyamoto doesn't see the technology as being conducive to the type of experience Nintendo aspires to provide.

"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 and they spend all their time alone playing in that virtual reality, that's in direct contrast with what it is we're trying to achieve with Wii U," he said. "And so I have a little bit of uneasiness with whether or not that's the best way for people to play."

This isn't to say Nintendo has dismissed the technology entirely, but it doesn't sound as if it's especially interested in pursuing VR as something you'd use at home. "So from Nintendo's perspective, there's interest in the technology, but we think it might be better suited to some sort of attraction style of entertainment, say something at a video game arcade or things like that, rather than something that one person plays alone," Miyamoto said.

These thoughts come not long after Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime stated, "Right now, the technology isn't quite there yet, in our view." He did, however, also note that "it's something [Nintendo is] looking at," adding, "When it's there and enables a fun experience, [Nintendo]'ll be there, too."

While still not available to consumers--at least in any direct way; anyone can purchase a version intended for developers--the Oculus Rift has helped to create a surge in interest for VR gaming. Facebook acquired the device's developer, Oculus VR, for $2 billion earlier this year, and Sony has already unveiled its plans to offer a competitor in Project Morpheus. Microsoft hasn't announced any public plans for VR, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer has said the technology is "really interesting" for games.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
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Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

Discussion

115 comments
mje2k
mje2k

Nintendo must really, really hate the idea of VR, bearing in mind the Wii U is one headband away from being a VR system.

It’s got the hand movement sorted (wii controllers), walking sorted (wii balance board) and even head tracking sorted (wii u controller thingy – Google Street View and the virtual tours already use it).

I even emailed Nintendo before the current VR circus started and suggested they just needed to provide a way to make the wii u controller thingy head mounted to make it into a VR system, and got politely swatted away…

Veenox
Veenox

Japanese 101 : Master of copying and remaking things even better than before, meaning, they'll take the Occulus idea, create a new tech and apply it to their games in a "nintendo fun way". Say Hello to Amiibo.

nintendians
nintendians

Nintendo could do vr on wii u by just using its gamepad, doesn't have to be stereoscopic 3d but then again the wii u's gamepad resolution is low quality than those 1080p hd devices and all they have to do is to have a something that clip on the gamepad and strip it on the head..

Vodoo
Vodoo

The tech isn't even what most people would consider to be VR. Right now it's the equivalent of strapping a tv screen over each eye and moving the in-game camera when you turn your head.

That isn't what most people envision VR to be like.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

I get what he says but its not its impossible to network two of them together eventually like multiplayer games do now.

silvermeteorman
silvermeteorman

I think way too many people are looking for an "Avatar" movie experience with VR and it's not going to happen on anything affordable. 

pikachudude860
pikachudude860

I can't really VR being as big as most people hope. It's just like 3D TVs.

If most people don't even like the Gamepad, why would they like something you'd put on your head?


Plus it may be bad for your eyes.

RossRichard
RossRichard

Well yeah, when your console is only as powerful as a rival console that launched in 2005, then VR is a pipe dream.

BrokenChaos666
BrokenChaos666

The only games I'll ever enjoy with VR are huge, gorgeous open worlds to explore. I'll probably be dead by the time anything glorious like that happens with VR so I'm not excited.

catsimboy
catsimboy

As much as I think VR isn't going to catch on in a huge "gotta have it" way I'm tired of hearing Nintendo's "living room" excuse. Why does your online infrastructure suck? Living rooms. Why does this game not have any online multiplayer? Living rooms. The social "living room" audience seems to have moved on to smart phones and tablets. Maybe it's time to branch out?

Sushiglutton
Sushiglutton

I like Nintendo and I like VR, but Miyamoto is right they are not a good fit for eachother. 

fredyellowone
fredyellowone

The more I think about VR, the less I'm excited.  Beside movies, and some games like racing games, and shooters, there's not a lot of stuff that I will enjoy with that new technology.

Delochos
Delochos

Interestingly Miyamoto interested in VR, but may be different if the test VR WII U

Thretosix
Thretosix

Biggest conflict I see is, the Wii U does not have the power to push VR.  There is a gaping hole between the Wii U and the XO/PS4, even Oculus Rift was saying the XO and PS4 weren't powerful enough to run VR on their device.  Now Sony says that Morpheus will run on the PS4, it will likely be proprietary enough to run on the PS4 quite well.  Microsoft is sitting back on VR fields as well it seems.  Nintendo would need a whole new console.  They have enough trouble with the one they have now.

Holoogamooga_
Holoogamooga_

It wouldn't really be any different from playing online games with friends with voice chat going in the background. Some of the most fun I've had gaming was playing TF2 in college communicating with friends over the campus's VoIP phones, and VR wouldn't stop that.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

If the Wii U were truly designed for group fun in the living room, it would support more than one gamepad at once.  it doesn't.

mje2k
mje2k

@Veenox ..Or Occulus, say hello to Virtual Boy :-p

hystavito
hystavito

@abcdefgabcdefgz But 2 still isn't enough for a lot of the experiences Nintendo is into, like 4 or even 5 player games on WiiU.  Beyond actual players, I think just in a general sense Nintendo likes the idea of a family or group watching people play a game, or taking turns, that kinda thing.


If you think about it, those kinds of games are really what Nintendo thinks will differentiate them and compete with the more powerful systems.  They have some more solitary stuff like Zelda, but Zelda is not the kind of game that hits with mass numbers of casuals, whereas something like Mario Kart is more that kind of game.


However, I will say that Nintendo might bring some gimmicky VR stuff out if the headsets were very cheap so that a family could own say 4 of them.  Maybe around the current price of a Wii remote, so that probably would not be possible for a long time.

legendofzub
legendofzub

@abcdefgabcdefgz But it's not there yet.  In order for headsets like Oculus to be bearable, it needs to be outputting AT LEAST 72 FPS.  Any lower and it will look choppy, nauseating and migraine inducing.  To have 2+ POVs being processed and sent to the device... Consoles are nowhere near that yet.

legendofzub
legendofzub

@pikachudude860 That's why it's still in development.  Almost everybody whose tried it has said it's incredible and that most games are perfectly comfortable.  But that's still almost, and their goal is to get that to have as little or less strain on the user than a normal TV or monitor.

silvermeteorman
silvermeteorman

@RossRichard No console will give you a true VR experience and you'd be hard-pressed to find PCs that can do it with realistic details.

legendofzub
legendofzub

@catsimboy They focus on local multiplayer because that's the one things consoles have over PCs. Nintendo is working WITH PC gamers rather than trying to win a hopeless war like the other two.

arispishere
arispishere

@catsimboy funny how I can explain these "living room" excuse questions and you can't...

mje2k
mje2k

@Thretosix Er, the Wii U already does VR of a sort, from sniffing around in the undergrowth in Zelda Windwaker with the controller to viewing bizarre places with Google Street View whilst waving the controller around, or walking along on the good old Wii balance board.

It's not got 3d, but 3d's not been a roaring success for anyone so far when they've incorporated it into TVs, game systems or handhelds...

jrcast84
jrcast84

@Thretosix Then why is OR also looking to work with smart phones?

gameroutlawzz
gameroutlawzz

@Thanatos2k The console needs a new Megaman Battle Network game that supports 2 gamepads.

Micropixel
Micropixel

@Thanatos2k  Sorry, but you're wrong, Thanatos. The Wii U supports two pads. They announced this officially before the system launched at the 2012 E3.


Sources: Engaget, Cnet and Kotaku.

StHapns247
StHapns247

@Thanatos2k Yeah, nothing sounds more fun than being in a room with 3 of my friends all looking down at a gamepad.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

@Thanatos2k How Many Controllers are Supported for Multiplayer Games?

Multiplayer games can support one gamepad plus four Wii remotes and/or Wii U Pro controllers, allowing five people to play together. The Wii U also supports two gamepads, although no games have been announced that take advantage of this. It is unknown whether two gamepads could be used alongside four wii remotes.

http://nintendo.about.com/od/faqs/a/The-Wii-U-Console-Faq.htm

it can support 2 but there are no games made yet that does this yet. Perhaps in the future but it can do it. 

mje2k
mje2k

@hystavito @abcdefgabcdefgz Yegods, I shudder at the thought of 4 people careering around the living room in VR headsets, falling over furniture and smacking each other with WiiMotes...!

I hope they package it with some form of body armour if they ever do that ;)

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Micropixel @Thanatos2k It can't run it without "a price."  There's a reason no game uses two - because it would have unacceptable performance impacts.  That means it can't handle two.

legendofzub
legendofzub

@bunchanumbers @Thanatos2k If the WiiU's "defining feature" is the gamepad, then the XB1's "defining feature" is the kinect, and the PS4's are those ridiculous airline controller lights.  I don't see either of those companies making a ton of use with either of those either.  As for your commen "a price  to pay means gameplay would be impacted," no it doesn't.  "A price to pay" means there is a price to pay.  In this case, that price is allocating resources.  When you add a third screen to process for, of course it's going to impact where the resources go.  If developers ever design a game for two gamepads, which I have a feeling Splatoon may do, they won't pass that threshold.  No gameplay would be impacted.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@bunchanumbers @Thanatos2k The gamepad is the signature feature of the console.  And it CANNOT support more than one.  They tested 2 gamepads and the Wii U can't handle it.

jrcast84
jrcast84

@4kgamer_lmxxx @jrcast84 @Thretosix His statement is that PS4 and XB1 are not powerful enough for the OR, but they are also trying to make it work with mobile devices. And I think we can all agree that XB1 and PS4 are light years ahead of mobile devices.

legendofzub
legendofzub

@Thanatos2k @Micropixel Yes, there's a reason no game uses two - because no developers have made a game for two.  Hell, there are hardly any games that make much use of ONE.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@legendofzub @bunchanumbers @Thanatos2k Yes, that's why the Bone is a failure, because of Kinect.  The PS4 has no crappy gimmick defining their console like the Wii U and Bone tried to, and as such is the runaway success.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

@Thanatos2k @bunchanumbers Nintendo's own twitter has said that it can use 2 but there would be prices to pay for it. Games would be affected but would go back to normal when one is turned off. Someone just needs to make a game that uses it. 

cybrcatter
cybrcatter

@jrcast84 @4kgamer_lmxxx @Thretosix For the next couple of years, perhaps. Smartphones are advancing at the pace that PCs were around 2000. The PS4 and XB1 aren't exactly cutting edge technology, either. 

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@legendofzub @Thanatos2k @Micropixel And why has no one made a game that uses two?  Because it can't handle it.


For example, if EA could have gotten 2 gamepads to work they'd have put it in Madden allowing you to secretly choose your plays through it in multiplayer.  And so on.

mje2k
mje2k

@Thanatos2k @legendofzub @bunchanumbers It may be a runaway success at the moment but it's backed by an ailing company which can't even afford to keep it's AAA developers on, and it's not faced it's biggest challenge yet - cheap, no-frills Steam Machines (if they ever happen).

I'll wait a year before I buy a PS4, thanks.