If you’re any sort of fan of video games, you’ll know about the ill-fated partnership between Sony and Nintendo. Yes, those two companies once had a partnership on a CD-based attachment for the Super Nintendo console.
The Full Story First
Back in 1988, Nintendo was battling with Sega for supremacy in the video game market. The Super Nintendo was up against the Sega Genesis. It was a time of great growth in the technology of how video games could be played and how those games could be stored on a medium. At the time, it was cartridges. CD’s were on their way in though. The new digital based medium was the future. Nintendo knew this going into it. So they went to the world’s preeminent CD manufacturer, Sony. They wanted a disc-based add-on/console for the Super Nintendo. Sony got work underway on it, with Ken Kutaragi being the head of the project. More on him a bit later.
The problem that arose was in the wording of the original contract that the two tech giants had signed. Sony would make a home entertainment center branded the “Play Station”, where Nintendo would make the SNES-CD with the technology. At the Consumer Electronics Show in May 1991, the “PlayStation” would be shown off to the world.
Actually, it wouldn’t. Nintendo’s Hiroshi Yamauchi re-read the contract and the language of it. All games created on the Sony based CD format would become Sony controlled. This was unacceptable from Nintendo’s standpoint and they secretly cancelled the partnership without notifying Sony. Nintendo Chairman Howard Lincoln took the stage at CES, instead announcing a new partnership between Nintendo and Phillips to create a disc-based console. It sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Sony was blindsided by the announcement.
How Nintendo Created Their Biggest Competitor
With the deal with Phillips, Nintendo would have creative and complete control over the games created for the new system/add-on. This add-on would become the Phillips CD-i, one of the most maligned systems ever. With horrible games that butchered the Nintendo characters that they used in the partnership. It’s a wonder that Nintendo allowed this to happen, but it’s the partnership that they wanted. Sony briefly flirted with the idea of going to Nintendo’s biggest competitor at the time, Sega. They had meetings but the higher ups at Sega veto’ed the idea. So Sony went into business for themselves, and the Playstation (or PSX) was born.
Following the breakup from Nintendo, Sony would go on to sell more consoles than any of their competitors for a majority of the recent console generations with the Playstation, Playstation 2, and Playstation 4.
So What’s Special About This Playstation?
This particular Playstation up for auction from Heritage Auctions is a prototype. It’s one of the original models made from the Nintendo/Sony partnership. Also, it’s one of the only remaining models left of about 200 made. More importantly though, it’s functional. The unit was originally owned by Olaf Olaffson, the first president, founder, and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. It found it’s way into the hands of a private collector and now is up for auction.
This is one of the rarest and most prized pieces of video game memorabilia ever to cross auction. It technically shouldn’t even exist. Sony and Nintendo destroyed all the prototypes, but this one slipped through the cracks. So now, on March 5-7th, it’ll be up for auction in Dallas, Texas. This is truly the rarest console in the world and it’ll be a hell of a piece for any fan of video games or the history of technology. It’s impossible to guess what this’ll go for, but I guess we’ll have to see when the auction rolls around in Dallas.
For more collectibles/memorabilia, make sure to check out Heritage Auction’s website here.
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All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.