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.

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Photo courtesy of Callum Underwood
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.

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