At the summer Consumer Electronics Show in 1991, Sony announced that it was jumping into the video game hardware market for the first time, partnering with Nintendo to release something called a “PlayStation.” The device never made it to market—for reasons I’ll explain shortly—but someone on reddit may have come across a very rare prototype.
In late 1992, Sony would be releasing the Nintendo PlayStation, which would be a peripheral device that attached to the Super Nintendo and play [sic] games on CD. At this time, it was generally understood by both experts and laypeople that CDs would soon become the standard delivery mechanism for all entertainment: music, movies, and videogames. It just made too much sense. A CD could hold ten times as much information as a 16-bit game cartridge at one-tenth of the price. Perhaps there was a whimsical charm to game cartridges, but this was a matter of technological Darwinism. And Sony was thrilled to be evolving with Nintendo.
But the Nintendo PlayStation was not to be. The next day, Nintendo held its own press conference to announce it had developed a partnership to produce CD technology... with Phillips.
After being spurned by what was then the biggest player in the video game industry, Olafsson continued to push Sony to develop its own console internally. A few years later, the Sony PlayStation as we know it was born.
The picture above is allegedly a Sony prototype from the days when PlayStation was just Olafsson and hardware developer Ken Kutaragi’s pet project. It’s not clear whether it’s from before or shortly after Nintendo’s backstabbing announcement, but the design makes sense given the history: that’s basically a Super Nintendo controller, but there’s a CD drive on the front of the device.
Here’s a closer look:
The backstory of the device is also pretty convincing. The poster of the photos claims,
“My dad worked for a company, apparently one of the guys he used to work with, I think his name was Olaf, used to work at Nintendo and when my dad’s company went bankrupt, my dad found it in a box of ‘junk’ he was supposed to throw out.”
Olaf Olafsson didn’t work for Nintendo, technically, but if anyone would have one of these prototype consoles, it would be him. (There were only 200 produced, according to Wikipedia, but that number doesn’t appear to come from any independent source.)
Still, this could be a really elaborate fake. The history of the machine has been documented thoroughly enough that it wouldn’t be impossible for a skilled engineer to marry parts from a PSX and a Nintendo and make something good enough to fool the internet.
“It’s real,” seems like the simplest explanation, though. I want to believe.