Nintendo Switch VR Test Mode Probably Doesn’t Mean What You Hope it Does

With the rise in popularity and affordability of headsets, it’s not a stretch to think maybe Nintendo Switch VR capabilities might be in the works at Nintendo. Unfortunately, Sony is the only console manufacturer to tread into the world of VR, though with the relative success they’ve had with PSVR, you’d think that Microsoft and Nintendo would want a slice of the small (yet growing) virtual reality enthusiast pie.

Rumors of a Switch Test VR Mode from a modder on Twitter encouraged another homebrew enthusiast to check out a widely disseminated, but untested, API function that was listed in the Switch AM services documentation.

The call, |CommonStateGetter::SetVrModeEnabled(bool), seems to point to some sort of experimentation by Nintendo with VR for the Switch. In fact, when Twitter user @random666_kys changed SetVrModeEnabled to true a whole different rendering mode was enabled on the Switch. The console began outputting as a stereo display. This will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used a VR headset before.

So, is Nintendo experimenting with VR on the Switch, or did they in the past? Probably not. Instead, this function is more than likely a leftover from the Android graphics APIs Nintendo adapted for the Switch’s graphics rendering. The system runs on an NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC, which also powers the NVIDIA Shield Android TV and Google Pixel C, both of which run variations of Android as well.

Unless Nintendo was thinking of going with a higher-res screen for the Switch initially, I doubt any notion of using it for a VR headset crossed their mind. Even the PSVR’s 1080p display is at the lower end of what’s comfortable for VR. The handheld screen also tops out at 60 fps so Nintendo would be very limited on how much movement was on any VR game made for the system lest people get motion sickness.

I doubt the homebrewers are looking to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. However, there are just too many factors pointing to the inclusion of the VR variable being an oversight. It’s entirely possible I could be wrong, but I’m betting the mode is just some leftover code from the Android graphics APIs Nintendo used for rendering on the Switch.