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Modders Discover Secret VR Mode in Nintendo Switch

Source: Nintendo

Nintendo doesn't usually make bad consoles. Barring the disappointing Wii U, perhaps the only real letdown was 1995's Virtual Boy. Nintendo's first attempt at an immersive console with stereoscopic 3D graphics was a resounding failure that cost too much and hurt people's eyes. Yet several modders' recent findings in the Switch's operating system could suggest that Nintendo's finally ready to make another go at virtual reality (VR).

The modders, "OatmealDome" and "random," discovered a hidden "VrMode" buried in the Nintendo Switch. As detailed by Ars Technica, OatmealDome tweeted earlier this month about the finding to ask if any other modders had tried calling it. Random did, and they shared a video of themselves (below) using the secret utility. There isn't much to be found--just a screen that instructs the user to "Please move the console away from your face and click the close button" in French--but the test also splits the screen in half and renders each side on its own.

That setup could allow the Switch to support basic VR functionalities via stereoscopic 3D. But while the experience wouldn't be as bad as those of the Virtual Boy, the Switch has a higher resolution and supports a lot more colors, so it still wouldn't even approach the quality of other VR headsets. Nintendo outfitted the Switch with a 6.2-inch display and a 720p resolution. It also weighs 0.66lbs without the Joy-Con attached. That works for playing games at arm's length, but splitting the screen in half and putting it right in front of your nose would likely make for an unpleasant experience.

Still, the hidden VrMode implies that Nintendo has at least explored the possibility of using the Switch as a VR device. That doesn't come as much of a surprise. The Switch was already designed to support the many ways people play games, Nintendo became the leader in 3D gaming with the 3DS product line and Project Labo has expanded the Switch beyond a simple game console to a broader entertainment device. Introducing a proper VR mode once the hardware supports it (and we assume the Switch will be upgraded at some point) would make a lot of sense.

For now, though, using the Switch for VR would require a bunch of fiddling in exchange for little return on investment. Anyone interested in the kind of VR experiences console-makers can provide would be better off joining 3,000,000 of their counterparts in buying the PlayStation VR for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro instead.