Long before Sony and Nintendo were rivals, the two companies were partners for a brief time. In 1988, the duo started work on SNES-CD, a video game media format that was supposed to augment the cartridge-based SNES by adding support for higher-capacity CDs. In 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Sony introduced the “Play Station” (yes, with a space), but it never saw the light of day.
Now, more than two decades later, Imgur user DanDiebold has uploaded photos of the unreleased console. This particular model (about 200 Play Station prototypes were created) confirms that the system was supposed to be compatible with existing SNES titles as well as titles to be released in the SNES-CD format. In other words, it would have been the world’s first hybrid console. Game developers and players alike would be able to use both SNES cartridges and CDs.
Without further ado, here is the front:
And the controller:
If you’re curious how the partnership ended, the short answer is that it came down to licensing disagreements. The long story is a lot more controversial.
Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi didn’t want Sony to control the SNES-CD format. As a result, Nintendo formed a partnership with Dutch electronics firm Philips, a particularly bold move as it meant abandoning a fellow Japanese company for a European one.
A day after Sony announced its SNES-compatible “Play Station” at CES, Nintendo made the surprise announcement: a partnership with Philips to produce an SNES-CD add-on for the SNES. It was a massive blow to Sony, but in the end, it proved more problematic for Nintendo.
Sony continued development of its own console and released the PlayStation in 1994. Nintendo did not release an optical disc-based console until 2001, when it launched the GameCube.
If you want to learn more about this particular prototype, check out the following thread on Assembler Games. DanDiebold is offering details about the unit itself and how it came into his possession. He wrote, “My dad worked for a company. Apparently, one of the guys he used to work with, I think his name was Olaf, used to work at Nintendo, and when my dad’s company went bankrupt, my dad found it in a box of ‘junk’ he was supposed to throw out.”
DanDiebold says he will try to find the power supply and turn the prototype on.