Sony Play Station-Nintendo Super Famicom (SNES-CD) hybrid prototype console from 1991 discovered

8 June 2007
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SNES-CDIn the mid-1980s Sony Researcher Ken Kutaragi wanted to improve Nintendo’s Famicom/NES sound chip, he contacted them and this leads to him designing the Super Famicom/SNES Sony sound chip for Nintendo.

In 1988 this resulted in Nintendo contracting Sony to create a Super Disc drive for the upcoming Super Famicom/SNES in the tradition of the Famicom Disk System (a floppy-disc add-on to the Famicom in Japan). When Nintendo began planning for the Super Famicom’s 32-bit successor, they again got help from Kutaragi who suggested the use of CD-ROMs and so development on the SNES-CD began.

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  • By 1991, they were certain what the console was going to be. It would be a 16-bit (not 32-bit) add-on (not standalone) for the Super Famicom that would sit underneath the system and used CDs. This was to compete with the Sega Mega CD, which had been announced that same year and due for release in December.

    PlayStation-SNES hybrid prototype console from 1991Sony made a few versions of the system (by this time, called the Play Station). One was the SNES-CD just (shown at the top), another was a standalone system that could play its own CD games and SNES games. Sony later developed this into their own PlayStation, but this original version is not the same as the PlayStation we know today. It’s this last prototype version photos were never shown of, until now 16 years later it was finally revealed online as you can see in the photo above this paragraph.

    EGM SNES-CD 1992 article (with specs)This newsitem will be updated as soon as Gamerave releases new information about the prototype PlayStation-SNES hybrid console. As we know now the release of this hybrid console fell through when Nintendo discovered Sony lawyers wrote the agreement in a way that would leave Nintendo without software fees (which is their bread and butter) and thus Nintendo went to Philips for a SNES CD-ROM (SNES-CDi hybrid), which eventually became just the CD-i. In the meantime through legal actions and the SNES being the 16-bit console wars winner, all three companies came together to make one 32-bit add-on console in October 1992. The agreement was for a new SNES CD-ROM add-on, this time to be made by Nintendo, Sony and Philips and called the SNES Nintendo Disk Drive (AKA Philips CD-ROM XA).

    Eventually by May 1993, Nintendo released the last tech specs and information relating to the SNES add-on. A release date for fall 1994 and a tentative price of $200 was set. The CD format could hold 540 megabytes and games like Zelda and Street Fighter 2 sequels were already in development. But the SNES add-on was a no-show at the 1993 Summer Consumer Electronics Show. Before the end of 1993, Nintendo officially announced the SNES add-on plans were cancelled.

    Full description of the quite confusing historic events at Consoledatabase and Nsider. Via Digg


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  • About the author

    Ferry Groenendijk By Ferry Groenendijk: He is the founder and editor of Video Games Blogger. He loved gaming from the moment he got a Nintendo with Super Mario Bros. on his 8th birthday. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and at Google+.

    • Wow! Very interesting! I wonder how they got ahold of those pictures. Excellent story. And it’s amazing to think what would have happened had the original deal gone through . . . a world without Playstation . . . *mind wobbles*

    • Anonymous

      I think that Nintendo and Sony should’ve released the SNES-CD, that way the SNES would’nt have died in 1996 when the N64 came out. In fact, ( I am estimating this) that if Nintendo actually released the SNES-CD, they would still makes SNES games for the CD add-on and in cartridge format until late 2000, when Nintendo will announce Project Dolphin, which would be Gamecube.

    • Johannesmutlu

      offcourse i feel so sad that they never released any cd rom addon ,but still i sneakingly hope that it was an good decission becouse, 1 it was $299 wich was too expansive (not worth for an console wich costed less& dit showing it,s age),2 peoples maybe would,ve buy the standalone version rather then the addon itself,3 if the console was an insucces it would,ve costed nintendo tons becouse of it,s failure and those co,operations with sony & philips and the fact that the addon was more expansive to make the the n64 it,s self.
      4 also nintendo had an bad experience with their famicom disk system becouse of it,s unreliabillity,slooow loading time & piracy copying,and so they dit,nt want to let this happening again.
      5  the famicom disk system was not as a big succes nintendo was hoping and so was the sega cd,atari jag cd,nec tuurbo cd were all insucces addons so nintendo learned from their mistakes.
      even the philips cdi with it,s poor mario & zelda games were not an succes.
      they only mistake i can imagine was that sony was turned against nintendo and that they had ruled the video games market,sony simply learned from thosee mistakes from other compony;s and that,s why the psx was an succes,however if sony dit,nt had learn from those compitors mistakes the psx would,ve be doomed either!!!!

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    • Andrew Laggan

      Possibly one of Nintendo’s biggest mistakes was not to release a CD drive from the SNES. The PS1 may not have been the sucess story had this add on been available. Interestingly, one of the pins on the SNES cart port gives out a 21MHz clock signal which gives an indication of the capabilites of the add on had it been released. At a guess, I’d say the unit would have generated visuals to Super FX2 standard which would have rendered the need for specific Super FX cartridges redundant (and given the Sega 32X a run for its money). Nintendo’s desicion to stick witht he cartridge format arguably cost them into the N64 era.

    • Andrew Laggan

      Also, the SNES hardware was built for multimedia applications as much as games. A CD add-on would have took full advantage of 256 colour full motion video and the 8 channel PCM sound not to mention CD audio. Imagine if the SNES had been CD based from the start with a faster processor…

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