clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rare ‘Nintendo Play Station’ prototype going up for auction

It’s the first time the prototype has been available at public auction

photo of Nintendo PlayStation prototype with controller and cartridge, on white background Image: Heritage Auctions
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

There’s an alternate timeline in some other universe where the PlayStation is a Nintendo product. In the early ’90s, Sony Computer Entertainment engineer — and later chairman and CEO of the unit — Ken Kutaragi created the Super Nintendo sound chip, which sparked another collaboration between the two companies: a disc-based console addition. Despite disagreements on both sides, Kutaragi designed the console, and a couple hundred prototypes were produced of the Super NES CD-ROM System, colloquially known as the SNES-CD or Nintendo Play Station.

For a long time, no one was even sure one of these still existed; it’s likely that most of them were destroyed. But one exists, owned by Terry Diebold, who bought the unit in a blind auction when the company he worked for, Advanta Corporation, went bankrupt. The SNES-CD was in a box of stuff once owned by former Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Olaf Olafsson, who later worked at Advanta. After shuttling the console around to gaming conventions for years, Diebold is now ready to part with the Nintendo Play Station.

“It’s the first time this prototype has ever been offered at public auction before,” Heritage Auctions consignment director Valarie McLeckie told Polygon. “Nintendo and Sony are arguably two of the biggest competitors in video games today. It’s just a little baffling to some to see Nintendo and Sony sharing the same console — and that it has the namesake of the PlayStation itself.”

None of the games created specifically for the console prototype have ever been found, but the device is able to play games. In 2017, master modder Ben Heckendorn took the console apart and fixed the CD-ROM drive. McLeckie confirmed to Polygon that, indeed, everything still works.

The auction is scheduled for March 5-7, 2020, but interested buyers can start bidding online in February. “We don’t have any sample as to what this could possible sell for,” McLeckie said. “The market’s going to have to dictate the value on this one.”

She noted that estimates range from six figures to “the downright shocking.” Last week, Diebold told Kotaku that he turned down a $1.2 million offer from a person in Norway.

Heritage Auctions began auctioning video game collectibles in February 2019; McLeckie said it’s gotten progressively more video games consigned to it over the past year. In early November, a super-rare copy of Mega Man was sold for a stunning $75,000 — a record as the most valuable sealed game sold at auction. Hundreds of other games were sold at the time, too: Bubble Bobble Part 2, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda for $19,200 each, and Mario Bros. for $15,465.60.

An influx in collectibles sold at auction may be, in part, due to a trusted third-party grading service called Wata Games. Grading services are old hat for the auction industry; everything’s got a rating to determine its condition, and, therefore, value. Wata Games was founded in 2018 as an expert service that assesses and certifies video games and related collectibles.

The Nintendo Play Station will certainly sell when it’s up on auction in March. I mean, look at the thing. There’s something so fantastic about a classic Super Nintendo controller that, instead of Nintendo, says PlayStation.

“If you look at the back, Nintendo is actually embossed in the plastic, and the connector has Sony on it,” said McLeckie. “As far as rarities go, it’s such a unique piece.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon