In Brief

Nintendo Playstation: geek dreams are made of this

The only Nintendo PlayStation ever made is up for grabs

 

For years, the Nintendo PlayStation existed only in the hushed whispers shared between geeks at comic-book conventions. Nintendo and Sony working together to bring out a games console? It couldn’t possibly be real. It would be like Coke and Pepsi teaming up to make cola.

But the rumours were true. Sony and Nintendo, today arch-rivals in the gaming sphere, had indeed collaborated to make a console in the early 1990s. 

Two hundred prototype Nintendo PlayStations were created in around 1992 and 199 are said to have been destroyed when the partnership ended early. Just one model survived and it was kept by Olaf Olafsson, the first president of Sony Computer Entertainment.

Olafsson went to work for the Advanta banking corporation and took the console with him, says Sky News. But it was left behind when Olafsson changed jobs again in 1999. When Advanta later went bust, the PlayStation was sold. Now it has surfaced again – this time as part of an online sale with Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. As I write, the highest bid stands at $360,000 (£277,000), with fees. Bidding closes on 8 March.

For sure, it is a strange beast, worthy of any 21st-century curiosity cabinet. Part Sony and part Nintendo, at first glance it resembles a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or “SNES” to those of us who grew up with it (it hit the shelves in Britain in 1992).

The controller is almost identical. Except, look closely and the controller reads Sony PlayStation. Presumably, Nintendo chose to recycle parts of the design after the plug was pulled on the project. The console has been restored to full working order and it can play music CDs. Stranger still, it can apparently even play the games meant for the SNES. 

Nintendo Playstation

© Heritage Auctions

Incidentally, the video games themselves are fetching ever higher prices. Heritage Auctions is also selling a rare copy of Stadium Events: Family Fun Fitness, which was made for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1987. It has been given a 9.2 A+ grade rating by video-game grading group WataGames, which means it’s in pretty good nick. The current bid at time of writing is $54,000 (£41,500) – for a video game! Games for the NES are particularly collectable.

Still, maybe Nintendo should have tried harder to hold the collaboration together. Sony went on to sell 103 million PlayStations, according to video-games website IGN. The SNES “only” sold 49 million units. Nintendo would lag the market for years, while Sega, another big player in the 1990s, stopped making consoles in 2001 to concentrate on video games.

That same year, Microsoft entered the fray with its popular Xbox – but not popular enough to worry Sony, as it turned out. The best-selling console of all time at 159 million units sold is the Sony PlayStation 2. With the release of PlayStation 5 slated for later this year, that market dominance may continue.

Stadium Events game

2020 Heritage Auctions

A bubble in retro video games

The Nintendo PlayStation is a one-off. But there does appear to be a growing market in collectable (read “retro”) video games. “The hottest investments are games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which popularised characters such as Link, Mega Man and Mario in the 1980s,” says Jason Bailey in The New York Times. A collector who spent almost $1,500 on one game was able to resell it for $12,000. “You almost can’t pay too much, because stuff is going up so fast,” Josh Hamblin, the owner of SideQuest Games in Oregon, who also advises collectors, tells the paper. 

Nostalgia is one reason. Collectors who are now in their 30s and 40s are fond of the video games from their childhoods. The market really took off in 2018, when WataGames began grading game boxes, cartridges and manuals according to its ten-point scale, much in the same way baseball cards and comic books are graded. That gave the market a certain respectability, leading to a rush among collectors to get in early, and prices have been rising ever since. 

Last February an unopened copy of Super Mario Bros., from 1985, set an auction record of $100,150 (£77,000) with Heritage Auctions. Some see a bubble. Some suspect companies with vested interests of stoking the market higher by creating hype.

Still, there’s no reason why video games shouldn’t be considered collectable. Rarity and condition are crucial, so do your research. And, as with all collectables, buy it because you like it. And who knows – you might even make some money along the way.

This article was originally published in MoneyWeek

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