When Mario isn’t stomping on turtles and hopping across perilous gaps, he’s usually jumping into bold new forms of technology. Nintendo’s long-time mascot has made a habit of innovating throughout his career, from fitting into pockets on the original GameBoy with “Super Mario Land” to revolutionizing gaming with 3D gameplay in “Super Mario 64.”
With “Super Mario Run,” he’s also making his (quite belated) debut on smartphones.
But as both PlayStation and Xbox gear up for the virtual reality revolution, Mario’s going to stay put in the Mushroom Kingdom, for now. In an interview with USA Today, “Super Mario Bros.” creator Shigeru Miyamoto explained why Nintendo is shy to jump into the VR fray.
“I would agree that adapting Mario to new platforms is a key to keeping him relevant,” Miyamoto told USA Today. “But we want families to play together, and virtual reality (which requires players to be closed off from the real world) doesn’t really fit well there. We also like people playing for a long time, and it’s hard to do that in VR.”
While it’s true that Mario’s games have been hugely innovative in the past, this is actually in keeping with Nintendo’s more recent strategy. The company has often dismissed technological trends (such as online multiplayer and mobile phones) until it feels comfortable adopting them.
Nintendo has publicly dismissed the current wave of VR for a while now, but it has shown a tiny bit of interest recently. Still, after being burned hard by its failed Virtual Boy console in the mid-1990s, it’s a bit understandable why it would be reluctant to join its competitors in embracing VR.
There’s also the problem of VR being prohibitively expensive and impractical for most people. The upcoming PlayStation VR is the most consumer-friendly mainstream option for gaming, but starting at $400, it costs more than a new PS4 and requires room space that plenty of people (myself included) just don’t have.
As Miyamoto said, Nintendo makes games for families to enjoy, meaning they need to be affordable. Considering Nintendo’s yet-to-be-revealed NX console is reportedly less powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One (and probably cheaper as a result), it’s highly unlikely their game machine for the next three-to-five years is even capable of supporting VR.