One of gaming history’s last true unicorns will soon go up for auction, and lucky you, there’s no reserve. The Nintendo Play Station — a one-of-a-kind prototype produced during a failed 16-bit era Sony/Nintendo collab — goes on the block next February through Heritage Auctions, a Dallas-based auctioneer of dramatically high-priced collectibles and sundries.
For the low, low price of “probably the highest dollar amount ever paid for a single piece of video game hardware,” the winner will receive the prototype unit itself, along with a Sony-branded “Play Station” (not a typo, btw) SNES controller and a hand-labeled debugging cartridge. There’s no reserve price on the auction, but the Nintendo Play Station’s current owner has previously turned down offers of over a million dollars from private collectors, so it’s probably going to sell for an astronomical amount of cash.
The unit is 99 percent original, save for three capacitors replaced by YouTube hardware hacker Benjamin Heckendorn in an effort to repair the disc drive, which was non-functional upon the Play Station’s 2009 attic re-discovery. As can be seen in Heckendorn’s two-part teardown and repair videos, the inside of the console features a wealth of hand-soldered components, jumped connectors and rerouted pathways, including one wire manually connecting a system chip to the cartridge slot after the fact, most likely because the PCB designer just straight-up forgot to draw that pathway. Hilarious!
The console’s disc drive does function because of Heckendorn’s aforementioned fiddling, but no Nintendo Play Station CD-ROM software exists to run on it. It does still run normal Super Nintendo software through the cartridge slot, but this isn’t really the kind of thing you’d actually play games on anyway. This is more of a “vacuum sealed in a glass cube for the rest of eternity” sort of collectible, and to paraphrase a handsome professor that my mom used to spend a lot of time with, it honestly does belong in a museum.
I sincerely hope that some kind of preservation society — perhaps the National Videogame Museum also located in North Texas — rescues the Nintendo Play Station from a lonely life in the wood-paneled antiquities den of some billionaire. It actually just struck me that Elon Musk might buy this thing, so please give me a second to fight back the bile rising in my throat.
Okay, sorry about that. Real talk though, the chances of the Nintendo Play Station ending up in the hands of a publicly accessible institution are very low. Museums are criminally underfunded and often lack the means to compete with celebrities and oligarchs who love buying functionally useless ephemera like dinosaur skulls and other truly irreplaceable pieces of history, simply so they can show them off to their other ultra-rich friends. Because why let something end up in the hands of scientists or preservationists when you could blow hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars for your own personal gratification? Sure there’s people freezing to death on the streets of America’s wealthiest cities, but you wanna look at a real dinosaur skull whenever you want, dammit! Isn’t that what the founders envisioned when they made this great country?