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Nadia Oxford

Gaming History: The Virtual Boy Wasn't the Reason Gunpei Yokoi Left Nintendo

By July 28, 2010

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Were you ever in possession of Nintendo's Virtual Boy? No? Don't feel too left out. Nintendo's 3D "virtual reality" system, which fit clumsily over the player's head and displayed black and red graphics, was arguably the company's biggest bomb. The portable system staggered through 1995 before it finally lay down and died.

It's popular belief that Gunpei Yokoi, the creator of the Game & Watch series, the Game Boy, and the Virtual Boy, left Nintendo because he was in disgrace over the the Virtual Boy's failure. But according to the book "Nintendo Magic" and Yoshihiro Taki, a Nintendo employee who served under Yokoi, that wasn't the case. Yokoi was simply easing into his planned retirement.
"In August 1996, Yokoi retired from Nintendo at the age of 54, and a month later he founded Koto, a small toy company, in Kyoto.

At the time, there were whispered speculations that he had left Nintendo to take responsibility for the Virtual Boy's failure, or that there had been a fight with [Nintendo's former president Hiroshi] Yamauchi, but Taki -- who was there to see -- says none of this is true.

Yokoi had originally decided to retire at 50 to do as he pleased. His retirement had simply been a bit later than planned."
Though it's still sad to think that Yokoi is no longer with us, it's a small comfort to know that his departure from Nintendo wasn't quite as unfriendly as originally believed.

For more information about the life of Gunpei Yokoi and his contributions to the toy and gaming industry, read Game & Watch: The Precursor to the Nintendo DS.

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