June 1991, Sony proudly announces a partnership with Nintendo at the Consumer Electronics Show, revealing that they will be producing a disc-based add-on for the Super Nintendo. The day after Sony’s announcement, Nintendo revealed that their new hardware attachment would be developed by Philips instead; a total slap in the face to Sony. Many hypothesize that Nintendo gave too much to Sony during their 1988 agreement, underestimating the impact of CDs on the industry. The shock wave across the community is still heard to this day.
Ken Kutaragi, known by many as the “Father of the PlayStation”, was devastated. He had helped Nintendo with their spectacular audio CPU for the SNES, and took a lot of personal risk in trying to push Sony into the gaming arena. Sony, frustrated by Nintendo’s turn coating, scrapped the ‘Play Station’ project. Sadly, nothing was left after they destroyed the 200 rumored prototypes; the console has never been seen again.
2009, A man named Terry Diebold was working a maintenance job, tasked with clearing out a bankrupt company’s office. The company was called Advanta, and the president happened to be the former CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment. As Terry cleaned out the office, he stumbled upon something rather interesting.
“The company ordered my dad to throw a bunch of shit out,” Terry’s son Dan Diebold told Polygon. “As he was cleaning out the rooms he found this box. He kept a bunch of stuff from there. My dad has tons of old systems and shit. He keeps everything.”
What was in this particular box was an undestroyed Nintendo ‘Play Station’, possibly the rarest piece of gaming history to ever hit the eyes of gamers.
Dan says that he hasn’t tried turning it on yet, because it’s missing a power cord. Many on Reddit pleaded with him not to- suggesting he calls in electricians and other professionals to look it over and make sure nothing bad happens to it. Accidentally frying the board would be an awful conclusion to this story.
There are just so many questions when it comes to this piece; what kind of secrets does the BIOS hold? What’s on the mysterious cartridge? What does the menu system look like?
What would the industry be like had Sony and Nintendo’s partnership bloomed? What if Sony had never been dishonored at CES? How would this have affected hardware development? There’s just so many “what ifs” when it comes to this marvel, but there’s an even bigger question; what’s to become of this infamous piece of history?
“That prototype system represents a big turning point, for both Nintendo and Sony,” says Scott Shepard (also known as Scottsquatch) of Video Games Sellers, a YouTube channel devoted to collecting and the sale of vintage video games. “If Nintendo had gone ahead with the collaboration, where would gaming be today? Would game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Crash Bandicoot, or Resident Evil even be remotely the same? To think that there was a chance that Sony would have never made their own, dedicated gaming systems is huge.”
Some on the forums question if the console could be a counterfeit, citing a French article that jokingly questioned the console’s legitimacy. While this seems far-fetched, it could be possible, although very unlikely. It’d be easy to fake the PlayStation logo on the controller, but much more difficult to manufacture a port that says SONY on it. Everything on the surface seems real, but the idea that some guy in Denver had this sitting in his attic just seems too good for some of those commentators.
It seems to have been used, considering wear around the eject button, and the lack of sun-staining underneath the 1st controller port.
“It seems legit to me,” Shepard said. “The system even looks to have some genuine aging and discoloration to the plastic.” When asked about if he thought it would work, Shepard said, “If there is any actual game content on the cart or even possibly on the system, I would imagine it’s something in a very early stage, more like a test for character models and graphics. It would be really cool if there was an early build of a Mario or Zelda game.” And about the possibility of playing PSX games on it, “Sony’s final PlayStation model would have probably been internally redesigned and enhanced a decent amount from what they had built with this Nintendo Prototype unit.”
With the system garnering so much attention, many within the community are hoping it ends up being preserved in a public space. “It deserves to be put in a museum. It’s just such a significant piece of gaming history. It’s cool finds and discoveries like these that make my passion for the video gaming hobby grow.”
Asked if the system will be sold, Dan told Kotaku “I’m sure my dad would think about selling it because he’s pretty broke.”
We reached out to Dan Diebold for comment, but he was unable to be reached. We also reached out to the Videogame History Museum for comment, but they did not get back to us in time for publication. For updates to this story, or for more stories like these, make sure you subscribe to Mouse n Joypad.