The sony playstation 1 was launched in 1994 to international acclaim. It simply blew away the competition with the likes of Nintendo and Sega failing to gain support for their N64 and Saturn consoles respectively. What may not be known is that playstation 1 was very much based on joint efforts between Sony and Nintendo. This is the story of the SNES-CD.
In 1991 Nintendo had been trying to extend the popularity of the SNES by adding a CD ROM capability. Originally striking up a licensing deal with philips the two companies developed a CD ROM add-on for the SNES. This turned out to be massively unsuccessful and Nintendo eventually broke with philips. Nintendo subsequently approached Sony to continue this project and both worked together to create the SNES CD attachment. At the same time Sony also planned on creating its own branded home entertainment system incorporating Sony’s own CD technology and nintendo’s cartridge based Console. This project was dubbed the Play Station. The play Station console was able to play both SNES cartridges and Sony’s newly developed CD format. This new CD format would also be used in the SNES-CD attachment. The Play Station was officially announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1991 but only about 200 prototypes were ever created. Unfortunately an earlier licensing deal between sony and Nintendo meant that Sony would have full control over all games that would be programmed in the new CD format. As Nintendo saw this as their domain they thought this completely unacceptable and secretly went back to philips to revive their previous Project, but with full license over the games. Following Sony’s announcement of the Play Station at CES Nintendo and philips announced their new joint project the very next day.
Funnily enough Nintendo claimed that this newly revived deal with Philips wouldn’t effect the relationship and joint project between themselves and Sony, and attempted to sue Sony when they decided to go solo. Eventually in 1993 sony ended any agreement with Nintendo and launched the ‘Playstation’ – the most popular console ever released.
It is interesting to think how different the games market could have been today if Nintendo and Sony had released the Playstation together. Sony clearly gained so much more from the joint project than Nintendo. Sony who had previously no experience in the games market had gained a lot of knowledge and experience from working with Nintendo and this was paramount to the successful release of the Playstation. If Nintendo had not been so greedy and had not subsequently snubbed the CD format then they may not have been in the decline which they find themselves in today. Furthermore had this relationship not broken apart Sony may not have dominated the games market and may not be such a significant entity today!