In 2015, the fabled “Nintendo PlayStation” turned out to be a real thing, discovered in an estate sale of all places. After a whirlwind, five-year world tour, this incredibly rare, one-of-a-kind device’s handlers have had enough—they are putting it up for sale.
As of press time, the Heritage Auctions listing is up to a bid of $15,600, with 22 days to go. An enclosed photo gallery confirms that this is indeed the same Nintendo PlayStation that I was lucky to go hands-on with in 2016, complete with ugly-yet-expected yellowing of its exterior plastic body (owing to its flame-retardant materials’ oxidization over time).
We’ve written a lot about this Nintendo PlayStation over the years, and for good reason. As the only known version of this hardware in existence, it’s the gaming world’s rarest console, if not the rarest item altogether. There’s also the added romance of it representing the final collaboration between Nintendo and Sony before their plans for a Super Nintendo CD-ROM system fell apart over licensing deals. (Sony previously built the incredible, sample-based sound system built into every SNES console.) I encourage anyone unfamiliar with this Nintendo PlayStation system to review our previous coverage.
Yet this week’s new auction listing manages to unearth some information we’ve never printed in an Ars article: its detailed origin story. Before now, we’d only heard pieces of its backstory. As the listing states:
At one time, this particular unit was owned by the founder, first president, and first chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. Olaf Olafsson. Olaf eventually left Sony to join Advanta Corporation, and became its president in 1998. A little over a year later, Olaf left Advanta to join Time Warner—but he left his Nintendo PlayStation prototype behind at Advanta. Roughly around this time, Advanta filed for bankruptcy and began gathering up everything in their corporate office to sell at auction. As the story goes, the Nintendo PlayStation prototype was grouped together with some miscellaneous items that [were] boxed up with a group lot, the contents of which were veiled. A nice Easter egg for the winning bidder, indeed!
The listing also claims an exact production count of 200 prototype Nintendo PlayStation consoles, along with the allegation that the other 199 have yet to be discovered. (By the end of this auction’s bidding war, it might be cheaper to investigate thousands of other estate sales and storage units in hopes of another discovery than to place the winning bid.)
Missing from the description is the exact working state of the Nintendo PlayStation. In good news, it will load standard Super Famicom cartridges with no trouble, and its included “data cartridge” will communicate with the system in an effort to boot compatible CD-ROMs. However, despite efforts to beat the system into true CD-loading shape, even prestigious hackers like Ben Heck couldn’t pull it off. Anyone interested in placing a bid shouldn’t expect to code and boot prototype software via this console’s working CD-ROM drive.
And, yes, allow me to beat the comment section to uttering this classic Indiana Jones quote: it belongs in a museum. In the gaming sector, we know of a few.
Listing image by Heritage Auctions