VR has been all the rave in the media over the last couple of years, so much so that it's hard to find a tech site that hasn't discussed it or reviewed it or displayed it prominently as part of its feature coverage. However, Nintendo, for some reason, hasn't shown any interest in the tech. Why? Because not enough people have adopted it yet.
Well, in an interview with Les Numeriques, Nintendo's general manager in France, Philippe Lavoué, explained that not enough people have adopted VR or 4K to make it a viable pursuit for Nintendo at this time.
Lavoué explained to the outlet that VR in particular is still a very early technological endeavor, and isn't widely adopted yet. It's true, the numbers for VR adoption are rather low, with the best selling device, the PlayStation VR, still struggling just above the 2 million SKU mark in terms of sales. The biggest hurdle to VR is that the price just completely keeps a lot of casual enthusiasts from even looking the way of VR. Both HTC and Oculus have attempted to have steep discounts on their HMDs to lure more people in, but both manufacturers still struggle with really low, and slow adoption rates.
Previously, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and Reggie Fils-Aime commented how VR was still very insular technology, relying on separating the user from the rest of the world in order to experience virtual reality. VR is somewhat different from AR, insofar that with augmented reality the user is still present and aware of their immediate surroundings, but it still separates other users from the experience due to the way both AR and VR operates. Nintendo wanted to focus the Switch on bringing people together locally, and the executives noted that VR wasn't really the way to do it, and there isn't a cost-effective measure to make it viable for multiple players in a local setting.
4K is a little different, insofar that Lavoué believes that it's just not viable to invest in the technology that isn't widely adopted yet. The uptick in 4K is still really low right now, and even in the PC gaming market where enthusiasts flock to the higher end of technology, 4K is still mostly relegated to a very small segment of the market. Sony and Microsoft have attempted to edge into the 4K field with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, but adoption rates are still really slow.
Lavoué asked the outlet why Nintendo should invest in technology right now that isn't widely adopted?
It's not a bad question. Sometimes tech companies can become disruptive by introducing new technologies that drive demand, but so far neither 4K nor VR seem to be driving much demand from the mass market. The Nintendo Switch, a hybrid portable and home gaming console, is driving lots of demand right now, showing that Nintendo banked on the right tech. The Switch has sold crazy amounts of units in a short amount of time, becoming the fastest selling home console in the U.S., in the process.
Maybe next gen, when more people have 4K televisions and VR headsets, we'll see Nintendo veer in that direction. For now, it looks like those possibilities are off the table.