Within the annals of video gaming history are more than a few interesting stories – and like so many other areas of life, these stories of what “almost happened” or “could’ve been” tend to be richer than the account of what actually was. Out of those many tales, there is one that is mythic to players of the ’90s era: The Nintendo Playstation.
The device was designed to be a Sony add-on to the Super Nintendo around the year 1992, offering gamers that “revolutionary” CD technology of the time – discs that could hold much more information than the standard Nintendo gaming cartridge. After a couple hundred prototypes were made, the idea for the Nintendo Playstation was scrapped, and Sony went on to turn that CD technology into the first Playstation, while Nintendo stuck with a cartridge format for its N64 gaming console. Now, 23 years later, one man has found an actual Nintendo Playstation prototype in his attic, and is sharing that discovery with the gaming world.
The man in question is Denver resident Dan Diebold, who discovered the Nintendo Playstation unit in the attic of his parents’ home in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. According to Diebold (via Polygon): “I found it a couple of years ago,” Diebold told me today in a phone interview. “My dad had it in his attic.”
Since skepticism tends to reign in this day and age, there have been questions as to whether or not this is an elaborate fake. However, the explanation Diebold gives for how his family came into possession of the unit, seems plausible enough. As per Polygon:
Terry Diebold, Dan’s father, worked as a maintenance man at a company called Advanta Corporation from 2000 to 2009. As chance would have it, Olaf Olafsson, a then 35-year-old physicist and best-selling novelist, was the president of the company. Olafsson also happened to be the former CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, a unit of Sony created in 1991 to, among other things, create and bring to market the PlayStation. It was during Olafsson’s time that Sony worked to establish a relationship with Nintendo to create a peripheral that would allow the Super NES to play CD games. The company also worked on creating a Sony-branded device that would play both SNES games and SNES-CD games.
A falling out at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991 broke the companies apart, but not before 200 of the prototype Play Stations were created.
After leaving Sony, Olafsson went to work at Advanta. In 2009, Advanta filed for bankruptcy.
“When they went bankrupt the company ordered my dad to throw a bunch of shit out,” Dan Diebold said. “As he was cleaning out the rooms he found this box.”
Inside, what appeared to be the prototype for the SNES Play Station.
“He kept a bunch of stuff from there,” Dan Diebold said. “My dad has tons of old systems and shit. He keeps everything.”
That anecdote recalls the old saying about how one man’s trash can be another’s treasure; in this case, a treasure that seems to be desired by many men, if the steam this story has picked up on Reddit is any indication. (At the time of writing this) Diebold hasn’t attempted to turn the system on yet, as he has to first acquire a suitable power cord. There are also a cartridge and CD included with the console, but without power to turn it on, the contents of said disc and cartridge remain unknown.
Given my own experiences with both the N64 and Playstation 1, I can personally say that Sony had the right forward-thinking idea back in ’92. Playstation eclipsed the N64 in just about every way I can remember as a gamer; in fact, looking back, that was actually the fork in the road where Nintendo began to fall out of favor with gamers my age (upper teens). After N64, I never came back to Nintendo for a major console purchase (sorry Game Cube and Wii) – it was the disc-based gaming of Playstation 2 and XBox that took over the crown.
How different would things have been had Japan’s two great gaming companies found common ground? Guess we’ll never know, but here’s hoping that through Dan Diebold we’ll at least get a fun look at what they made together, once upon a time.