The owner of the Nintendo PlayStation has placed the one-of-a-kind console up for auction today, and the listing is already at $48,000. This console is the only known example of Sony and Nintendo’s abortive collaboration. It’s also the only version of the SNES CD, a canceled add-on format for the SNES, that has come to light. As this prototype may be the rarest console in existence, even more so than holy grails like the RDI Halcyon, it’s likely to become the most expensive video game collectible to date.
There were several points in the history of video games where one event could have changed the entire course of the industry. Development on the Nintendo PlayStation started in 1988 when Sony Engineer Ken Kutaragi became interested in working with video games. Kutaragi helped develop the Sony SPC700, the audio chip for the SNES, and the success of that project led to Sony partnering with Nintendo to create a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES. As part of this agreement, Sony would also get the rights to manufacture its own all-in-one console that could play SNES cartridges and SNES CD games. This would eventually become the Nintendo PlayStation console that is up for auction.
As work on the project continued, Nintendo became more and more uncomfortable with the relationship. As part of the two company’s agreement, Sony retained ownership of the Super Disc format used for the SNES CD and would receive much of the licensing fees for games developed on it. Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of sharing Nintendo’s lucrative licensing fees, so a plan was hatched. Nintendo secretly negotiated a more favorable contract with Philips.
During CES 1991, Sony announced the PlayStation and was shocked when the next day, Nintendo announced its partnership with Philips. This led to the much-maligned CD-i Nintendo games, and Philips never produced an add-on for the SNES. For the next year, Sony and Nintendo negotiated their contract, and in 1992, a new deal was struck, which allowed Sony to produce SNES-compatible hardware with Nintendo retaining control of game licensing. However, Sony lost interest in working with Nintendo and decided to develop its own console, which would rival and overtake Nintendo’s N64 during the next console generation.
So, instead of potentially strengthening its already-dominant place in the video game market, Nintendo created its biggest rival. Had the Nintendo and Sony partnership lasted, who knows what the video game landscape would look like now.
Fortunately, at least one of the Nintendo PlayStation prototypes survived out of the rumored 200-300 that were created. The device on auction belonged to former Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Olaf Olafsson, and he left it behind during his tenure with another company in the late-2000s. When this company went bankrupt, a former worker acquired the device in a liquidation auction.
Amazingly, the prototype works well. When it was discovered, the CD-ROM drive was non-functional. However, YouTuber Ben Heckendom was able to repair it and captured the first known footage of SNES CD gameplay using homebrew.
This incredibly rare console prototype isn’t just imminently collectible, it’s a time capsule from another universe. If Sony and Nintendo’s partnership would have held and the Nintendo PlayStation got a public release, would I even be writing about games right now? How many iconic titles would have never been made at all? How many amazing games did we miss out on because it was canceled? The Nintendo PlayStation holds a lot of wonder, and that’s why I’d be surprised if it didn’t make it into the high six-figure/low seven-figure range by the time the auction ends.