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The Top 7... Consoles that never were

 

Created by: Sony and Nintendo

Intended for release: 1991

The hope: By the early '90s, it was becoming clear that CDs were the future of videogames. They were slower than cartridges, sure, but they could store a lot more data, offered unheard-of sound quality and were a hell of a lot cheaper to manufacture than clunky, plastic-encased circuitboards. Joining the Genesis and the TurboGrafx-16, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System would have its own CD-ROM add-on, enabling bigger games, better sound and cooler everything.

The reality: Nintendo signed - and then backed out of - two separate deals with Sony and Phillips to produce a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to SNES fans, Nintendo sighed, muttered something vague about "access times" and "providing the best possible experience for our users," and that was the end of the dream.

Luckily for Nintendo, the Sega CD was burdened by a lot of crappy games, and once their novelty wore off, nobody seemed to mind much that the SNES didn't have a CD add-on. It wouldn't be until two hardware generations later - after losing most of its best third-party franchises to the CD-based PlayStation - that Nintendo would take another look at disc-based media.

Why it never saw life: The story of the Super Nintendo CD is the story of one of the biggest, most thoroughly documented business disasters in videogame history. Here's the short version: Years after it signed an agreement with Sony to co-produce a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo actually looked at said agreement, and found it essentially gave Sony complete control over all CD games created for the SNES.

Finding this unacceptable, then-Nintendo chief Hiroshi Yamauchi secretly pulled the plug on the project - something Sony didn't find out about until Nintendo announced at a press conference that it would be signing a deal with Phillips instead. That deal eventually fell through as well, although Phillips retained the rights to make some of the worst bastardizations of Nintendo games we've ever seen for its CD-I player:

While Nintendo was certainly within its rights to cancel its deal with Sony, its decision unwittingly created its own biggest competitor and dramatically changed the landscape of the videogame industry. A few years later, Sony released a new, freestanding version of the SNES CD, with greatly improved hardware. You know it as the PlayStation.


Above: OH SNAP

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15 comments

  • Predreus - December 29, 2012 5:31 p.m.

    Oh man, I was at E3 in 2004 and walked into the Phantom booth just in time to see one blue screen while someone was playing Madden. It was just a modified Windows box is all.
  • Zetabyte - April 6, 2011 5:32 a.m.

    Wha!?? No Bandai/Apple Pippin? Amiga CD32!? NO NINTEDO DD64!?!?!? No Worries, i'll just assume those would have been 8,9, and 10.
  • thefreakysurgeon - March 7, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    i always find the whole deal with Nintendo and Sony and the SNES CD to be very interesting and i always love reading about it.
  • talkraider - December 29, 2010 4:17 a.m.

    Sorry phantom, onlive beat you to the punch
  • fartinapot - July 23, 2010 5:48 p.m.

    that sucks. it looks like the phantom could have been a big hit. I wonder how popular the phantom would've been if it was released?
  • Strangleme - May 11, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    Amazing article!! I never knew the whole story behind the Nintendo/Playstation drama.
  • AFilthyIbis - October 24, 2008 8:44 a.m.

    Nope. We shant be having thatbehaviour here. Away with you hail56790 and your "first". "reported"
  • wiigamer024 - June 23, 2009 1:39 p.m.

    Nintendo, and Sony worked TOGETHER?!? Holy shiz! were was I, under a rock? I'm glad THAT was never relesed.
  • Hypershadic - May 17, 2009 1:16 a.m.

    You know a few of these could possibly have made it but you know what I don't really know that much so hell thats it....
  • AA95mp - January 3, 2009 8:10 p.m.

    it's a pity about a lot of these consoles they might of actually done well (but probaly not.)
  • d3athcr4ft - September 6, 2009 2:18 a.m.

    The Phantom sounds pretty much like the new OnLive system that is scheduled for release later this year. It remains to be seen if OnLive will actually hit the market, although it does seem to be much further along than the Phantom ever was.
  • scatterlaser - June 26, 2009 10:26 p.m.

    The phantom had potential but if it was released eventually or a consel based on the same idea it would have serious competition with xbox live and the more established download services e.g. steam,wii shopping channel,psn.
  • kurkosdr - January 7, 2009 8:56 p.m.

    @AA95mp EXCUSE ME?? Specifically WHAT on these list could have done well?? -->All of the systems on this list were a prime example of 1)Overpricing 2)Incompetence 3)Useless features 4)Shitty games 5)Inability to understand the market and what customers want. -The Gizmondo2 would never stand a chance next to the PSP, even with it's (lets call it a) camera. - The ProjectX... not a console, a useless feature tucked in overpriced DVD players. Answer to your self: Can the dedicated hardware of a standaalone DVD player run proper games? -The Indrema L600. An attempt to make a product (and games), out of the work that hobbist no-pay programmers did during their free time. Which, by the way, should have to compete with consoles designed by a thousand of paid engineeres. And games made by big-ass companies, which can afford to pay an army of programmers, artists and graphics designers. Does tux racer count as a game? Probably. As a competent racing game? No effing way! Sorry open source fans, this works only on OSes, browsers and media players -Neptune: Another effort from SEGA to tranform their 16-bit fossil into a modern console. Or in other words "our accounting department said that making a new console would be too expensive, so lets try to upgrade the stuff we already have". Losers! Answer to your self: Can you turn a 16bit system into a modern powerhouse, without making the programming process for it a pain in the ass? Impossible. Good for SEGA to aknowlegde their mistake. It saved them years of life. -M2: When you have made a console that will cost as much as a professional multimedia platform, you know you 've gone the wrong way. Look what happened to Sony and their PS3 powerhouse. Look how successfull the underpowered (but cheap and full of games), the SNES and PSOne were. Period. -Super Nintendo CD: For those who didn't get it the first time... you can't upgrade a fossil. -Phantom: Eh... Hem... can't an average user do the exactly same by assembling a media center PC??? In case you didn't noticed, this was exactly what the phantom would have been. A media center PC with a fancy video card. The idea of downloadable games (the ancestor of Steam) was a good idea, but I doubt if infinium could have pulled this out. Too much aggreements with too much game companies, by a small company. Impossible
  • kurkosdr - January 1, 2009 1:27 p.m.

    Altough it's not exactly a console... Any post-G350 video card from Matrox capable of running games even from it's era fast.

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