Rory Galvin discusses how one failed partnership changed the gaming industry forever.
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? It’s a phenomenon about how one small change can affect many things in the future, and in Nintendo’s case, one seemingly insignificant change created the gaming landscape we have today.
The SNES-CD (also known as the Super Famicom CD-ROM Adapter in Japan) was an add-on to the Super Nintendo that never came to be. This was in partnership with Sony to give more life to the 16-bit console, as well as creating a new version of the console that would combine the two. It was going to be called the PlayStation. Development began in 1988, but Nintendo had a few issues with the terms of the deal. This mostly involved Sony holding the rights to the audio chips used and getting the majority of the sales from CD software. Because of this, Nintendo decided to instead form a partnership with Philips and announced it at the Consumer Electronics Show 1991. This announcement was a surprise to everyone - including Sony.
Sony continued to develop their version of the SNES-CD console but soon cancelled it. In that time, prototypes of the system were created, but the estimate ranges between 200 and 300 units. Eventually, Sony turned their sights on developing a console of their own, and that led to the PlayStation we know and love, crushing Nintendo’s efforts in sales throughout the late 90s. The Nintendo/Philips deal also fell through, but part of the agreement allowed Philips to license characters like Mario and Zelda for their own ill-fated console, which created those infamous games and later memes all over the internet. So, whenever you see the King of Hyrule exclaim ‘My Boy!’ in all of his MS Paint glory, you know who to thank.
Could you imagine a world where the Super Nintendo controller had the word PlayStation on it?
There is one known prototype in circulation of the fabled Nintendo PlayStation. It was found in 2015 and was previously owned by an old CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. You can imagine how excited people were to see the story of this partnership come to life, but there were a few issues in the system. For one, the audio and CD components did not work, but Super Nintendo cartridges played like normal, and secondly, the CD drive needed a specific way to boot that the owner could not access. Both problems were solved a few years later, and while no games were made for the CD component (save for a few homebrew titles) the entire thing worked; it was a beauty to behold. Could you imagine a world where the Super Nintendo controller had the word PlayStation on it? The system was eventually auctioned off for a cool $360,000, and the highest bidder is planning on displaying it in a museum one day.
What would become of famous and beloved PlayStation franchises? Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, God of War? They may have never existed if it was not for this failed cooperation.
So, what would have things looked like in a world where the Nintendo PlayStation actually existed as a product? Well, if things went well, the partnership between the two Japanese companies could still be going today, and PlayStation as we know it may have never existed. If Nintendo had just kept the collaboration going, they would not have unintentionally birthed their greatest rival in the gaming industry, but at the same time, for consumers, it was for the best. What would become of famous and beloved PlayStation franchises? Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, God of War? They may have never existed if it was not for this failed cooperation.
The Nintendo PlayStation is wasted potential. Some of the greatest minds in gaming coming together sounds fantastic, but at the end of the day, it’s not like video games became ruined forever because of its failure. We can only imagine what could have been.