Which Game Company Produced, But Never Released, A VR Headset In The 1990s?
Back in the early 1990s, Sega, riding a wave of success from their Sega Genesis game console, announced in 1991 they were working on a virtual reality gaming headset for home consoles. Considering we’re well into the 21st century at this point (and VR is just beginning to get a very minor foothold in the gaming market), it would be safe to say that Sega’s intense focus on virtual reality might have been a bit premature.
The company went forward with the plans, going so far as to advertise the product well ahead of release and even showcase it at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in early 1993. The device, simply called Sega VR, was scheduled for release in the fall of 1993, then was rescheduled for release in early 1994. But suddenly, despite the enormous hype, Sega went silent about the project and it was never released to the public.
So where did it go and why did we not spend the 1990s wearing sweet Robo Cop-like visors? Sega claimed the project was terminated because the product was so good that users would inadvertently injure themselves while moving around wearing the headset. Given the level of the technology at that time, that’s a bit of a ridiculous claim and the reality was a bit less flattering. Play testers reported nausea and headaches, and researchers employed by the company to study the safety of the device warned against prolonged use. Those claims are probably not far off since Nintendo’s 1995 Virtual Boy VR headset was notorious for causing the exact same nausea, dizziness, and headaches play testers reported experiencing with Sega VR.
Although it may have been an expensive gamble and even contributed to the decline of the company, it was most likely a smart move to pull the plug on a project destined for failure anyway. After all, Nintendo pushed ahead with Virtual Boy, took a beating in the market, and ultimately sold only 770,000 units worldwide.
Image courtesy of Sega.