Nintendo Presses Pause on Virtual-Reality Technology

Children play a “Super Mario Maker” game during a workshop that was hosted by Nintendo in San Francisco in March. ENLARGE
Children play a “Super Mario Maker” game during a workshop that was hosted by Nintendo in San Francisco in March. Photo: Associated Press

TOKYO—A top executive at Japanese videogame maker Nintendo Co. has expressed concerns about introducing virtual-reality products, a likely sign that it won’t include the technology in its next-generation console, code-named “NX,” when it is released in March.

Virtual reality, which offers users an immersive visual experience through head-mounted displays, is made to be used for short periods because of health concerns, including possible headaches and nausea. It isn’t recommended for small children, one of Nintendo’s main customer bases.

“We’ve been looking at the technology, but we should also see how it fits into our products that are designed to use for the long term and how parents would feel about their children mounting VR devices,” the company cited Shigeru Miyamoto as saying at an annual shareholder meeting this week.

Mr. Miyamoto, a creator of the company’s famous franchises including “Mario,” “Legend of Zelda” and “Pikmin,” also questioned whether virtual reality was well-suited for experience sharing, including multiplayer gaming or just watching other gamers, which is increasingly popular.

Nintendo has released few details about NX other than its release date, saying it would reveal more later this year.

Tokyo-based videogame consultant Serkan Toto said there was “no way” that NX would be a virtual-reality console, and that Nintendo was making the right call.

“Nintendo is always about the mass market, but right now VR is years away from becoming mainstream,” Mr. Toto said.

Nintendo’s attitude toward virtual reality contrasts starkly with that of competitor Sony Corp., which this week unveiled a companywide effort to capture the virtual-reality market, which will grow to $ 40.26 billion in hardware sales by 2020, according to SuperData Research Inc.

Sony plans to release a virtual-reality headset in October, in which a player wearing the device can play the same game with other players by using a television screen. Analysts said Nintendo has already produced a similar option, by equipping a small screen on a controller that comes with its struggling flagship Wii U console.

Sony’s $ 399 PlayStation VR will compete with Facebook Inc.’s $ 599 Oculus Rift and HTC Corp.’s $ 799 Vive. SuperData predicts Sony will capture 69% of the high-end virtual-reality device market this year.

Microsoft Corp., which makes the popular Xbox console, recently said it planned to release a VR-ready console, code-named “Project Scorpio,” next year.

Sony is the current industry front-runner, as it has said its PlayStation 4 has sold more than 40 million units, while Microsoft’s Xbox One has sold about 20 million units, according to analysts. Nintendo’s Wii U has sold about 13 million units, the company said.

Write to Takashi Mochizuki at [email protected]


WSJ.com: US Business

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