A VR developer’s take on Nintendo’s strategy for VR and the Switch

As a software developer working in the VR industry (don’t ask me what company) I think that Nintendo will eventually bring VR to the Switch, but not for several years, and I think that this is a good thing. These are my personal opinions, but they come from someone who has spent years thinking about and working directly with VR, so I hope that this perspective will be worth sharing with the community.

First, I get why many people still think VR is a fad. Most everyone agrees I think, that the industry is still immature, doesn’t have much content yet, and many of the devices are only now approaching ‘good enough’ state. Hell the Oculus Touch controllers, a vital piece of the puzzle for the Rift, only just came out this month. That said, the potential of this technology is huge and companies are betting billions on its transformative power.

Given the current state of the VR tech, the market, and the Switch, and all the remaining uncertainties, Nintendo’s best bet would be to watch the industry grow and get over its teething issues, learn from the mistakes of others, and then roll out a very polished product. This could put VR for Switch out as far as 2021 or later. This strategy would also allow Nintendo to keep its focus where it needs to be right now: selling the Switch as a home/mobile console.

To address performance, there are major new technologies only just starting to come online now, such as Asynchronous Spacewarp and Nvidia's VRWorks. The former can cut the effective framerate to as low as 40 fps without breaking immersion. The latter does things like render the scene geometry, textures and lighting only once, then finishing the render from each eye's perspective, greatly improving performance by avoiding duplication. The Pascal hardware has some VR-specific tricks baked in, that allows for these technologies and possibly others yet to be announced, and the Switch will be likely to have them.

These new technologies should in theory make the Switch pretty VR capable. Nintendo will likely wait for the tech to mature, for developers to experiment, lower the cost of producing VR titles, and to hone in on the 'fun'. Nintendo will also want to wait for market awareness/acceptance to mature. Then, when everything is in place, they can breath new life into a now aging Switch by turning it into a capable mobile VR machine. This would also allow them to use Switch as a dry-run/testbed for their next-gen VR-capable console that would be released in the early to mid 2020s.

BTW, with their gyros and other sensors, the joy-cons would probably make passable VR controllers. At least 3-dof, maybe 6-dof.

Finally, I’m betting the screen is 1440p to future proof the hardware for VR. The Switch won’t be able to do VR without it, and I think the future of VR is bright enough that Nintendo will want pay the price of a higher rez screen up-front, in order to keep the VR option open. There are other bonus/advantages to a high-rez screen, such as better video playback and web-browsing that could help with customer stickiness. If you've ever tried browsing on a 720p screen, it's bad. The more the Switch can be part of user’s lives, the more money Nintendo makes.

Discussion started at here by carlesque

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