Howdy everyone! This week we have a brand new “Headlines From The Past”; a new feature here at Retro Game Network, where we celebrate a part of video game history very much often overlooked: The Written Word. This time around, we dug up an interesting article that was originally published in The Bulletin in Oregon, on June 2, 1991. This article discusses the “deal” that had been reached between Nintendo and Sony, back when they were originally going to be in the process of creating a new video game system together. Of course, we all know what happened with that one! Brief commentary and the article in full are available under the cut.

Nintendo’s interest in the CD-ROM format actually started around 1988, when behind the scenes, they were not only already working on the Super Famicom, but interested in having the CD-ROM technology be an add-on device, which would later be used for other future consoles like the Sega Genesis and Atari Jaguar. After about 3 years of development, Sony introduced a standalone console at 1991’s summer Consumer Electronics Show called the “Play Station” (two words in the prototype phases.) Originally, the system was slated to be compatible with SNES cartridges, but would also be compatible with the “SNES-CD” format. The next day however, Nintendo revealed its partnership with Philips by making a formal announcement at CES 1991. Licensing disagreements with Sony are what made Nintendo switch partnerships to Philips to produce the peripheral. This device would also not come into play, however the second agreement would allow Philips to create titles using Nintendo characters for it’s own home entertainment system, the CD-i.

June 2, 1991

By Jonathan Weber
For The Bulletin and L.A. Times

SAN FRANCISCO – In a landmark agreement that promises to have a major long-term impact on the home electronics business, Sony Corp. said Friday that it will join forces with Nintendo Ltd. in marketing a new type of video game system.

The alliance links two of the world’s most successful and innovative consumer electronics firms in an effort to popularize home entertainment systems based on compact discs. Such machines provide far better graphics and sound quality than current video game systems, and analysts say they could form the basis for a new breed of “multimedia” computers for the home.

The Sony-Nintendo agreement, announced by Sony on the eve of the biannual Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, promises to steal much of the thunder from Philips, which is unveiling it’s long-awaited Compact Disc Interactive (CDI), a home entertainment and education system.

Philips and Sony had once been allies in the development of CDI, but Sony now appears to be going it’s own way. Philips, for its part, has recognized that games will be an important selling point for the CDI technology. The Netherlands based firm reportedly has reached an agreement of its own with Nintendo to make Nintendo titles available on CDI discs.

But the Sony-Nintendo deal is much more far-reaching.

By year-end in Japan and the beginning of next year in the United States, Sony will introduce a compact disc-based game machine called the Play Station, that will also be able to play Nintendo games written for a new, high-powered Nintendo machine.

Simultaneously, Sony will roll out at least 10 compact disc games, most of them based on characters and themes drawn from movies being produced by Sony’s Columbia Pictures affiliates and music being promoted by Sony’s record company, formerly CBS Records.

“We will be tying in with a lot of the entertainment products in the Sony companies and with outside companies,” said Olaf Olafsson, president of Sony Electronic Publishing. “We’re working with a lot of people (in Hollywood) on both the movie and music sides.”

That is the principle that Nintendo grasped very well as it built its remarkable empire, which now controls an estimated 80 percent of the $5 billion U.S. video game business.

But the Nintendo juggernaut has slowed recently, and analysts have wondered whether consumers would be persuaded to buy the company’s new machine, which was formally introduced Saturday. The new system, which uses 16-bit computer technology, offers much better graphics than the existing eight-bit Nintendo machine, but it also costs more and will not play games produced for the older Nintendo system.

CDI, the similar CDTV being marketed by Commodore International, and the Sony-Nintendo format are not technically compatible; as in home computing and videotape technology, that raised the prospect of a prolonged battle to establish an industry standard.