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Bidding begins on ‘Nintendo Play Station’ prototype

Ultra-rare piece of gaming history expected to break records at auction

Nintendo Play Station Prototype Image: Heritage Auctions

Bidding has begun on the Super NES CD-ROM System — the fabled prototype of Sony and Nintendo’s ill-fated collaboration — with the opening offers now at more than $30,000. It is, to say the least, expected to sell for much more when the auction ends next month.

The unit in question is the only known surviving prototype of the 200 believed to have been made. It’s owned by Terry Diebold, a retired employee of the Advanta Corporation, a company whose CEO was once Olaf Olafsson — the CEO of what was Sony Computer Entertainment when the prototype was made. Diebold acquired the console, colloquially known as the “Nintendo Play Station,” in a lot of other items when the company went bankrupt in 2009.

It sat in Diebold’s attic for about six years until his son, Dan, recalled seeing it, and posted pictures of the unit to Reddit. Since then, it was repaired in 2017 by the famed modder and YouTube personality Ben Heckendorn, although no games were ever developed for the unit. “It now has the ability to play music CDs like the commercially produced PlayStation, but there is no proprietary software that’s known to have been made during the prototype’s development,” says the listing at Heritage Auctions of Dallas.

The description notes that the Nintendo Play Station has two mysterious labels: a piece of tape on the bottom with a handwritten 2, and “NEXT” over a port on the back whose purpose is unknown. The sale includes a yellowing Super Nintendo controller with a forerunner of the first PlayStation logo, as well as the debug cartridge that allows the console to activate the CD-ROM drive and access its operating system.

“This is arguably one of the most notorious, mysterious, and controversial artifacts of the video game industry,” Heritage Auctions says.

In announcing the auction in December, Heritage’s consignment director, Valarie McLeckie, told Polygon that the auction house had no idea what kind of price the prototype would fetch: “The market’s going to have to dictate the value on this one.” Diebold in the same month told Kotaku that he turned down a $1.2 million offer from a buyer in Norway.

So it’s very possible this ends up with the record for the most paid for any single piece of video gaming memorabilia. Heritage Auctions in November sold a rare copy of Mega Man for $75,000. Other grails of gaming history, like a sealed copy of Stadium Events, or Super Mario Bros., have pulled $42,000 to $100,000 through eBay and other arrangements.

Proxy bids on the Nintendo Play Station are being taken now through the morning of March 6; the unit will be auctioned at noon ET on that date, in a session accepting bids from phone, mail, fax, and the internet, as well as live on Heritage Auctions’ floor.

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