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Top 10 Unreleased Consoles

2.  SNES-CD

The SNES-CD is my personal favorite on the list because it resulted in one of the current major players in the video game market and was also responsible for some of the most derided games in gaming history.  The SNES-CD was envisioned as an add-on for the existing Super Nintendo that would play optical media-based discs.  The project began as far back as 1988 when Nintendo entered into a deal with Sony to produce a CD-based peripheral.  An engineer for Sony, Ken Kutaragi, became interested in video games via the SNES and discussed his ideas with his superiors.  Sony was uninterested in entering the video game business, however one executive approved of Kutaragi’s project and thus a partnership with Nintendo was born.  The partnership was expected to produce 2 different machines; the SNES-CD add-on, and a Sony-branded console (the SNES and SNES-CD built as a single unit) which would play original Super Nintendo cartridges and the new SNES-CD media.

SNES-CD

Several years later in 1991, Sony unveiled a standalone product capable of playing titles for the SNES and SNES-CD.  This unit was dubbed the “Play Station” and made it’s debut at the Consumer Electronics Show.  The very next day at the very same show, Nintendo would go on to announce a new partnership with Philips.

Where did it all go wrong?  It turns out that in the 3 year interim Nintendo and Sony were clashing over licensing rights.  The terms of the partnership gave Sony a large amount of control over software developed for the SNES-CD and Nintendo attempted to strike a deal with Philips (Sony’s major rival at the time) in order to gain leverage.  Eventually the two came to an agreement where Sony would be allowed to produce hardware compatible with the Super Nintendo, but by 1992 prospects for a Sony-made SNES-CD had effectively ended.

Nintendo continued their deal with Philips, and now the plan was for Philips to produce the add-on.  For unknown reasons, a Philips version of the SNES-CD never surfaced.  Late in 1991 Philips would release its own “console,” the CD-i.  During its first couple of years the CD-i was focused heavily on music, art, and other multimedia in the realm of “edutainment.”  After Philips’ deal with Nintendo, Philips decided to move the CD-i in the direction of more gaming-based consoles and produced 4 titles of popular Nintendo franchises along with 1 incomplete game.  These games, Hotel Mario, Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda’s Adventure, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and the unfinished Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds are among the most critically derided games of all time and, in many people’s eyes, blemishes on some of Nintendo’s most acclaimed series.

Some folks seem to be under the impression that the CD-i itself was a result of the Nintendo / Philips arrangement, but I find this unlikely since Philips had begun developing the CD-i back in 1984 and made a public announcement regarding the machine as early as 1986.  The idea of a CD-based peripheral on the Nintendo front dates back only to 1988, and until 1991 Nintendo had only collaborated with Sony.  Nintendo went public with its partnership with Philips in the summer of 1991 and the CD-i saw its North American release on December 3rd of the same year.  It would then be another couple of years before anything resembling what we know of as a “video game” was released for the Philips console.  So for those believing that the CD-i was the eventuality of Nintendo’s desire for the SNES-CD to finally be produced, it doesn’t make sense when looking at the timelines.

Sony would continue development on their stand-alone “Play Station,” later removing the feature to play SNES titles.  In 1994 the company came forward with their own product, now officially the “PlayStation,” and the rest is history!

Sony had created around 200 working prototypes of the original “Play Station” in the hopes that their relationship with Nintendo would improve, although it appears that no software for the SNES-CD was actually created due to differences between the companies.  In one deft swoop, Nintendo managed to not only mar a few beloved characters (though the CD-i and its offending games have been long forgotten), but they were also responsible for introducing one of their main competitors to the market.  Had relations not soured, who knows what would’ve happened?  Perhaps all the collective output from Nintendo and Sony would be intertwined even today?

The story of the SNES-CD is quite remarkable, and a true testament to how what we take for granted was created almost by accident, if not purely by coincidence.  How great would it be to get a hold of one of these SNES-CD / Play Station machines…?  Oh hell yeah I would’ve bought one of these!!

Written by The Cubist

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2 Comments

  1. What??? Nintendo essentially created their own competitor? That is ridiculous!! I always wondered why it seemed almost out of no where the playstation came to be.

     
    • The story of the SNES-CD really is one of the most remarkable in all of video gaming history. I remember how shocked I was when I first came across this info. I’d known for a long time about the failed SNES-CD and its loose connection to the CD-i, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I learned how the beginnings of the PlayStation tied into it all.

       

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