One of the greatest near-misses in video game history was the proposed collaboration between Nintendo and Sony on a state-of-the-art console in the late 1980s that was dubbed the Nintendo PlayStation. The device would have used CD-ROMs in addition to cartridges for game software, promising a more advanced experience than Nintendo’s trademark system of the era, the Super Nintendo.
It never came to pass, but now video game collectors will have a chance to own a very rare prototype of the system. Heritage Auctions is set to offer the Nintendo PlayStation hardware to the highest bidder in March 2020.
The partnership came about after a Sony Computer Entertainment engineer named Ken Kutaragi designed the sound chip used in the Super Nintendo. That led to the companies discussing a disc-based Super Nintendo system, with a couple hundred prototypes made.
The deal fell apart, however, over money issues. Nintendo subsequently blindsided Sony by announcing a CD-ROM partnership with Philips—which also fell flat—just a day after Sony announced the console, stylized as “Play Station,” at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991.
The systems were relegated to video game myth for decades until a console eventually surfaced in 2015. Advanta Corporation, which counted former Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Olaf Olafsson among its board members, went bankrupt in 2009 and auctioned off items. Terry Diebold, an employee of Advanta, purchased several boxes of material and was surprised to find the Nintendo PlayStation among the contents, a likely result of Olafsson keeping some of his personal effects at company property.
It was Terry’s son, Dan, who identified the console as being the product of the Sony and Nintendo collaboration. Dan posted images on Reddit in 2015 and was met with some skepticism. That same year, the two traveled to Hong Kong for a video game expo where they powered on the machine and demonstrated that it still worked. (While no CD-ROMs were made for the system, the drive has been fixed so it works, and the device can also play Super Nintendo cartridges.)
After touring with it over the past several years, Terry and Dan Diebold have decided to part with it. The unit is thought to be the only one of its kind, with the rest having been destroyed following the dissolution of the Sony and Nintendo partnership. The machine will go up for auction between March 5 and 7, 2020, with online bids accepted beginning February 14.
Heritage says they don’t yet have a pre-auction estimate of its value, but game collectors aren’t shy about spending when it comes to rare items: Heritage sold a rare Mega Man cartridge for $75,000 in November. The Nintendo PlayStation system has already received an offer of $1.2 million from a collector in Norway, making it likely that the once-promising partnership between the tech giants will be highly profitable after all—for Terry Diebold, anyway.