At the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, then-President of Nintendo of America, Howard Lincoln, took the stage to reveal some unexpected news: The company partnered with European electronics company Philips to create a CD-ROM-based game console . While the announcement surprised everyone in the audience, Sony engineer Ken Kutaragi was the most shocked of all. The night before, he and several Sony executives had demonstrated a product co-developed with Nintendo. It would become the world’s first hybrid console, with an SNES cartridge slot and a CD drive, with both formats available to game developers. That product, called “Play Station” (with a space), would never see the light of day.
Industry lore suggests that only 200 of the Play Station consoles were ever produced and hardly anyone has seen one of the legendary consoles in the flesh. However, photos of the legendary original Play Station surfaced on reddit yesterday (retrieved from Nintendo Life thanks to the site’s current furore), showing the hybrid console in all its gray and yellowed plastic glory.
The reddit user claims the console was discovered in a box of items given to him by a friend of his father’s who used to work at Nintendo. The photos show that the Play Station had an SNES cassette slot on top (technically a Super Famicom slot, as it’s a Japanese model), complete with a small LCD screen and buttons that appear to be used for operating of playing audio CDs. The back of the Play Station shows a variety of audio and video outputs, while the well-known SNES controller bears the Sony branding.
How Nintendo came to dismiss one of Japan’s largest and most respected electronics companies, and on a very public stage at CES, is the stuff of gaming legend. Kutaragi, without the backing of his employer Sony, had previously secretly begun work on a chip called the SPC700 – an audio chip that would make its way into Nintendo’s SNES console. The SPC700 – capable of producing and mixing eight simultaneous voices at any pitch and volume in 16-bit stereo at 32 kHz – was groundbreaking at the time. Kutaragi’s work led directly to a partnership with Nintendo that would see Sony build two devices: an SNES add-on called SNES-CD, and a Sony-branded console called Play Station that would run SNES-CD games as well as conventional Nintendo cartridges. to play.
However, Nintendo got cold feet. The specifics of the contract between the two companies meant that Sony would control the SNES CD format, which was simply not acceptable to Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi. Instead of renegotiating with Sony, Nintendo decided to fly to the Netherlands at the eleventh hour and enter into a partnership with Philips, a partnership that would give Nintendo full control over its games on Philips machines. Nintendo’s decision to publicly abandon a Japanese company and partner with a European company was outrageous for Japanese business at the time, and it would not go without consequences.
Sony decided to continue working on its Play Station, separate from Nintendo. Concerned about the idea of Sony launching SNES-compatible systems, Nintendo resorted to lawsuits to prevent the Play Station from coming to market, but the lawsuit failed and Sony was free to release the system in 1991 . (Not that it mattered too much, since only 200 of the consoles were produced.)
Sony didn’t give up, of course: the Play Station was reworked into the PlayStation, which, when it was released in 1994, had 3D capabilities that were miles ahead of the competition. It would go on to sell more than 100 million copies.
While Philips and Nintendo never ultimately released a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES, Philips would go on to release the infamous CD-i, a horrifying console that launched in 1992 and would only sell one million units. It would also result in some of the worst Nintendo games (but undeveloped) of all time, thanks to the fact that Philips was still contractually allowed to use Nintendo characters. If you don’t believe they can be real Which bad, go to youtube and check it out Hotel Mario, Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelonand Zelda’s Adventure.
While both Nintendo and Sony have had their ups and downs in recent years, today it is Sony that dominates the home console market. To date, more than 22.3 million PlayStation 4 consoles have been sold, while Nintendo’s Wii U remains the slowest-selling console the company has ever produced.