In the early 1990’s the world knew what the next big thing in gaming was – or at least that thought they did – it was VR (Virtual Reality). In Arcades and malls in America, both kids and adults stood in lines and paid $5 or more for a chance to pay a VR game. This experience involved standing on a platform, wearing a helmet that covered the eyes, and holding a joystick.
Whichever way the player looked, a new view would be displayed. This technique is simply know as “movement tracking,” and was thought to provide a total immersive experience to gamers. This was expected to revolutionize gaming and introduce it to adults who never before considered paying 25 cents on an arcade game, let alone $5 on a VR game.
In 1991 Sega announced their very own VR console know as the “Sega VR.” By this point, Sega had some experience with experimenting in the VR arcade world, and were determined to be the first company to bring VR home.
Due to other priority projects, the Sega VR was quietly progressing on the company’s R&D backburner. That is until rival Nintendo released the Virtual Boy – A far less advanced concept that featured only monochromic red vector-esque graphics, and no true VR game play; only pseudo-3D graphics.
The Sega VR console combined full color LCD screens and stereo sound. Weight was distrusted evenly, and the device was reported to be comfortable. Also, unlike the Virtual Boy, it was truly portable, not requiring a cumbersome tripod for enjoyable game play.
The never-to-be-released console made its final public appearance at the 1993 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Many gamers reported vastly underwhelming graphics, and even “cybersickness.” Despite these setbacks, the VR was heavily marketed and a 1994 launch date was announced along with four completed games that were advertized as pack-ins with the headset, in order to provide a jumpstart for the initial user base:
- Nuclear Rush: A simulation in which users pilot a hovercraft in a futuristic war.
- Iron Hammer: In this helicopter simulation, gamers pilot a flying gunship a la EA’s popular “Strike” series.
- Matrix Runner: This has noting to do with The Matrix, it was reported to be a “cyberpunk” adventure game inspired by Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher.
- Outlaw Racing: Road Rash meets Rock -n- Roll Racing in this vehicle racing/combat game.
“Nuclear Rush” is believed to be the game showcased in this promotional commercial which featured the Sega VR: Here
What happened to the Sega VR?
In 1994 the project faded away quietly. At this point Sega has internal strife between their Japanese and US departments. Also, the VR was seen as a distraction to Sega’s next home console, which was being designed at the time, codenamed Saturn.
Due to limited resources, strategic planning, the complete and utter failure of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, underwhelming graphics and performance, as well as motion sickness, Sega was wise in not bringing this cliché console to the market.
Unfortunately, no ROMs or prototypes have ever surfaced. Most prototypes are thought to have been destroyed.