Super NES CD-ROM System
SNES-CD add-on prototype concept art
Also known asSuper Famicom CD-ROM Adapter, Nintendo PlayStation
ManufacturerNintendo, Sony
TypeVideo game console add-on
GenerationFourth generation
MediaCD-ROM, ROM cartridge

The Super NES CD-ROM[1][a] (commonly abbreviated to SNES-CD) is an unreleased add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) video game console. It was built upon the functionality of the cartridge-based SNES by adding support for a CD-ROM-based format known as Super Disc.[4][5]

The SNES-CD was developed in a joint venture between Nintendo and Sony. Sony also planned to release it as a hybrid console, the PlayStation,[6] similar to Sharp's Twin Famicom and NEC's TurboDuo. Another partnership with Philips yielded a few Nintendo-themed games for the CD-i platform instead of the SNES-CD.

After the SNES-CD was canceled, Sony developed its own new and unrelated console using the PlayStation name. The first PlayStation console became the chief competitor of Nintendo's next console, the Nintendo 64.


Recreation of a Super Disc logo used from 1991 until 1993

Sony engineer Ken Kutaragi became interested in working with video games after seeing his daughter play games on Nintendo's Famicom video game console. He took on a contract at Sony for developing the S-SMP audio chip of Nintendo's next console, the Super NES. Kutaragi secretly developed the chip, the Sony SPC 700. Sony was uninterested in the video game business, so most of his superiors did not approve of the project, but Kutaragi found support in Sony executive Norio Ohga and the project was allowed to continue. The success of the project spurred Kutaragi, who believed CD-ROMs would overtake cartridges, to propose a CD-ROM drive for the Super NES. Nintendo disagreed, believing that CD-ROMs were too slow, but agreed to allow Sony to design the add-on after Kutaragi claimed the drive would be used for everything but games.[7] The result of the deal would be a CD-ROM add-on for the Super NES and for a Sony-branded console called PlayStation that would play both SNES cartridges and Super Disc games.

Development of the format started in late 1988, when Nintendo signed the contract with Sony. The system was to be compatible with existing SNES games and with games released for the Super Disc format.[8][9] Under their agreement, Sony would develop and retain control over the Super Disc format, with Nintendo thus effectively ceding a large amount of control of software licensing to Sony. Further, Sony would also be the sole benefactor of licensing related to music and movies software that it had been aggressively pursuing as a secondary application.[10] Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi was already wary of Sony at this point and deemed it unacceptable, because Sony was the sole provider of the S-SMP audio chip in the SNES and required developers to buy its expensive and proprietary audio development tool.[10] Nintendo had become suspicious of Sony's growth, because of the combination of the audio chip, Sony's PlayStation hybrid console, and Sony's rapid expansion beyond its electronics origins into music, movies, and most recently software. Nintendo suspected that it had become a prop in Sony's console ambitions.[7]

Furthermore, Yamauchi started to see a more favorable partner in Philips, one of Sony's largest competitors. To counter the proposed agreement, Yamauchi sent Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa and executive Howard Lincoln to the Netherlands to negotiate a more favorable contract with Philips. David Sheff said in his book Game Over, "[The Philips deal] was meant to do two things at once: give Nintendo back its stranglehold on software and gracefully fuck Sony."[10] At the June 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, Sony announced its SNES-compatible console based on cartridge and CD, the PlayStation.[8] The next day, Nintendo revealed its partnership with Philips at the show, which surprised the audience, including Sony.[11][9]

While Nintendo and Sony attempted to resolve their differences, between two and three hundred prototypes of the PlayStation were produced,[12][13] and software for the system was being developed. In 1992, a deal was reached allowing Sony to produce SNES-compatible hardware, with Nintendo retaining control and profit over the games. The organizations never repaired their rift, although Sony executives remained convinced that remaining with the more experienced Nintendo was the best course of action. By the next year, upon Kutaragi's suggestions, Sony had dropped further development of the Super NES CD-ROM to develop its own console for the next generation, the PlayStation.[14][15][10][7]


This is the only known SNES-based PlayStation prototype.

In July 2015, it was reported that one of the original Nintendo PlayStation prototypes had been found. The prototype was reportedly abandoned by former Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson during his time at Advanta.[16] A former Advanta worker, Terry Diebold, acquired the device as part of a lot during Advanta's 2009 bankruptcy auction. The system was later confirmed as operational and the unit plays Super Famicom cartridges and its test cartridge, although the audio output and CD drive were non-functional.[5] Some groups attempted to develop homebrew software for the console, such as Super Boss Gaiden, because there were no known games to use the CD drive.[17]

The prototype came with a Sony/PlayStation-branded version of the standard Super Famicom controller (model number SHVC-005).[18] In March 2016, retro-gaming website RetroCollect reported that it (and influential members of online emulation communities) had received (from an anonymous source) a functional disc boot ROM for the SNES-CD.[19][20]

Diebold had given the unit to hardware hacker Benjamin Heckendorn, to examine around 2017. Heckendorn provided a tear-down video of the system,[21] through which he identified faults in several on-board components that he subsequently replaced, which resulted in fixing the audio and CD drive issues indirectly. Heckendorn showed audio CDs working on the system, because there were no known game CDs, but affirmed that homebrew games worked.[22][23]

The prototype was auctioned by Diebold in February 2020, with an initial price of US$15,000, but the auction quickly exceeded $350,000 within two days.[24][25] It was sold for $360,000 to Greg McLemore, an entrepreneur and founder of, who has a large collection of other video game hardware and plans to establish a permanent museum for this type of hardware.[26][27]

Technical specifications

Heckendorn's July 2016 teardown video provides technical specifications of the prototype.[28] Heckendorn said the system would have probably been as powerful as a standard Super NES, but not as powerful as the Sega CD. The standalone unit has the following connectors: two Super NES controller ports, a cartridge slot, a dual-speed CD-ROM drive, RCA composite jacks, S-Video, RFU DC OUT (similar to the PlayStation SCPH-1001), a proprietary multi-out AV output port (the same one featured on the Super NES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube), headphone jack on the front, a serial port labelled "NEXT" (probably for debugging), and one expansion port under the unit.[29] The specifications from the prototype are different from those published in the March 1993 edition of Electronic Gaming Monthly.[30]

System PC Engine CD-ROM² Sega CD SNES-CD (SFX-100) SNES-CD (EGM 1993)
CPU (MHz) 7.16 7.67 3.58 3.58
Co-CPU (MHz) None 4 2.048 2.048
Bus Width (Bits) 8 16 8 8
Add-on Processor (MHz) None 12.5 None 21 MHz NEC V810 32-bit RISC; Philips version
Add-on Video None Present None None
Add-on Audio CD ASIC+CD (Ricoh PCM+CDDA) CD CD
CD-ROM Speed 1x 1x 1x or 2x 1x or 2x
Main RAM (KB) 8 64 128 128
Video RAM (KB) 64 64 64 64
Audio RAM (KB) 0 8 64 64
Exp RAM (KB) 64 (256 with Super CD and 2048 with Arcade Card) 512 256 512 or 1024; Philips version
Exp Video RAM (KB) 0 256 0 0
Exp Audio RAM (KB) 64 64 0 0
CD Cache RAM (KB) 0 16 32 128; Philips version
Backup RAM (KB) for save data 0 8 8 8
Total RAM (KB) 200 (392 with Super CD, 2184 with Arcade Card) 992 552 904 or 1416; Philips version


After the original contract with Sony failed, Nintendo continued its partnership with Philips. This contract provisioned Philips with the right to feature Nintendo's characters in a few games for its CD-i multimedia device, but never resulted in a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES. Sony meanwhile entered a short-lived alliance with Sega of America, where it was agreed that both companies would share all costs and risk for the new CD-ROM drive, and ultimately the next generation console. Ultimately however, Sega of Japan canceled the partnership, claiming Sony knew little of the industry, and resumed development of what became the Sega Saturn. The Nintendo-themed CD-i games were very poorly received, and the CD-i is considered a commercial failure, with the Nintendo-themed games later becoming infamous online.[31] The main game in development for the SNES-CD platform launch was Square's Secret of Mana, whose planned content was cut down to the size suitable for cartridge and released on that medium instead.[32][33]

A tentative reconciliation in late 1992 gave better terms to Nintendo for game royalties while allowing Sony royalties for all other software and the rights to produce SNES-compatible hardware, such as the PlayStation. It resulted in more powerful hardware specifications. Kutaragi however became emboldened enough from his experiences working with Nintendo and Sega that Sony could go it alone from scratch, and broke away from Nintendo to develop their own next generation console. Sony released the PlayStation in December 1994 in Japan and September 1995 in North America and Europe. This CD-only console successfully competed with Nintendo's cartridge-based Nintendo 64 and other CD-based consoles such as the Fujitsu FM Towns Marty, the NEC PC-FX, the SNK Neo Geo CD, the Panasonic 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and the Sega Saturn, causing it to become the console leader. The broken partnership with Sony has often been cited as a mistake by Nintendo, effectively creating a formidable rival in the video game market[34][14] as a consequence of Sony's and Kutaragi's shrewd determination to break into the market. It has also been argued that if Nintendo had never broken the deal, its position may have been further undermined by Sony. Nintendo, still convinced of the faster load times and stronger anti-piracy of the cartridge, did not release an optical disc-based console until the GameCube in 2001.[15]

See also


  1. ^ The system was internally known as the Super NES CD-ROM System in the West and as the Super Famicom CD-ROM Adapter in Japan.[2][3]


  1. ^ "Super NES Technology Update: CD-ROM". Nintendo Power. No. 35. April 1992. pp. 70–71.
  2. ^ "Super NES CD-ROM System documentation" (PDF). Nintendo of America, Inc. February 1, 1993. Archived from the original on June 19, 2018.
  3. ^ "ニューマシン総まくり" [Overview of New Consoles]. Weekly Famitsu (in Japanese). July 3, 1992. Archived from the original on August 19, 2017.
  4. ^ Theriault, Donald (July 3, 2015). "Nintendo Play Station Superdisc Discovered". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Lai, Richard (November 6, 2015). "We turned on the Nintendo PlayStation: It's real and it works". Engadget. AOL Inc. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016.
  6. ^ "Rare 'Nintendo PlayStation' sells for £230,000". BBC News. March 6, 2020. Archived from the original on April 19, 2020. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Kohler, Chris (September 7, 2018). "The Weird History Of The Super NES CD-ROM, Nintendo's Most Notorious Vaporware". Archived from the original on August 26, 2023. Retrieved September 1, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Edge staff (April 24, 2009). "The Making Of: PlayStation". Edge. Future Publishing. Archived from the original on May 16, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  9. ^ a b IGN staff (August 27, 1998). "History of the PlayStation". IGN. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Robinson, Andy (February 5, 2020). "The Road To PS5: PSOne's Betrayal And Revenge Story". Video Games Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  11. ^ "Nintendo-Philips Deal Is a Slap at Sony". The New York Times. June 3, 1991. Archived from the original on April 7, 2016.
  12. ^ "Sony PlayStation". Next Generation. No. 24. Imagine Media. December 1996. p. 48.
  13. ^ Lipshy, Jarrod S. (November 20, 2013). "Why the Super Nintendo CD Would Have Been the Greatest Console Ever". Unrealitymag. Archived from the original on November 9, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Fahey, Rob (April 27, 2007). "Farewell, Father". Archived from the original on August 17, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  15. ^ a b Cowan, Danny (April 25, 2006). "CDi: The Ugly Duckling". Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  16. ^ Brian Crecente (July 3, 2015). "HOW MISFORTUNE AND A BIT OF LUCK LED TO THE DISCOVERY OF THE FABLED NINTENDO PLAY STATION". Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
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  19. ^ Buchanan, Adam (March 1, 2016). "Unreleased Super Nintendo CD "Nintendo PlayStation" Boot ROM Discovered". RetroCollect. RetroCollect. Archived from the original on March 10, 2016.
  20. ^ "Super Disc Boot ROM - The Cutting Room Floor". The Cutting Room Floor. Archived from the original on February 18, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  21. ^ The Ben Heck Show (July 22, 2016). Ben Heck's Nintendo-Playstation Prototype Part 2 Repair. Archived from the original on July 27, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2016 – via YouTube.
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  24. ^ Philips, Tom (February 13, 2020). "Ultra-rare Nintendo PlayStation prototype up for auction". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  25. ^ Smith, Andrew (February 14, 2020). "Auctioned Nintendo PlayStation Prototype Console Will Be the Most Expensive Video Game Item Ever, Current Bid is $350,000". IGN. Archived from the original on February 15, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  26. ^ Carpenter, Nicole (March 6, 2020). "Rare Nintendo Play Station sold at auction for more than $300,000". Polygon. Archived from the original on October 10, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  27. ^ Zwiezen, Zack (March 7, 2020). "The Man Behind Pets.Com Bought The 'Nintendo Play Station' Console For $360,000". Kotaku. Archived from the original on March 8, 2020. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
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  31. ^ Blake Snow (May 4, 2007). "The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time". Archived from the original on May 8, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
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