For gamers, it’s the stuff of legends: a prototype console, jointly developed by Nintendo and Sony that combined the former’s cartridge-based Super Nintendo console with the latter’s CD-ROM technology to create the ultimate gaming system.
The relationship was short-lived, however, as Nintendo ultimately partnered with Phillips instead of Sony, and the PlayStation went on to become a successful stand-alone system. According to Ars Technica, industry reports suggest that only 200 of the fabled hybrid consoles were produced and few people have ever actually seen one – which makes it all the more amazing that images of one found by a reddit user surfaced online over the weekend.
The user claims the grey-and-yellow-colored device was in a box of assorted items given to him by a friend of his father who once worked at Nintendo. The images indicate that the PlayStation had a slot for SNES cartridges on top, a disc tray for CDs in the front, a small LCD display, and buttons that appear to control audio CD playback.
While the controller included with the system resembles the original SNES controller (or, to be correct, Super Famicom – the Japanese name for the Super Nintendo), the front of it has Sony’s name on it and the PlayStation logo. The rear of the system also features slots for various video and audio inputs, and a cartridge and a CD were also included in the box.
Prototype system found in a ‘junk’ box
According to Nintendo Life, the poster said that the box containing the prototype unit came from his father’s friend Olaf. The website speculates that this individual could be Olaf Olafsson, who was the president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Inc. at the time, and who had been involved in both the Nintendo deal and the 1994 launch of the actual PlayStation.
The Sony-Nintendo prototypes were ordered to be destroyed, The Telegraph explained, but this one appears to have survived. It’s not known if the console works, as the owner has been unable to find a power cable for the device, nor is it known what’s on the CD and cartridge that were found with it. The items were found in a “junk” box that was to be thrown out.
So what causes the partnership between the two companies to go south? Ars Technica explained that Nintendo “got cold feet,” and that under the deal, Sony “would control the SNES-CD format, which simply wasn’t acceptable to Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi. Rather than renegotiate… Nintendo decided to fly to the Netherlands and form a partnership with Philips, one that would give Nintendo total control over its games on Philips machines.”
“Sony decided to continue to work on its Play Station, regardless of Nintendo,” the website added. “Concerned at the idea of Sony launching SNES-compatible systems, Nintendo resorted to litigation to prevent the Play Station hitting the market, but the litigation failed, and Sony was free to bring the system to market in 1991.”