The SNES-CD (Also referred to as the "Super CD" or "Super Disc") refers to an unreleased add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which would have allowed the system to play disc-based games. Developed jointly between Nintendo and Sony and later Nintendo and Philips, the system would have been released as an add-on for SNES and as a standalone hardware hybrid known as the "Play Station", but due to various factors the device was cancelled.
In 1988, after Sony assisted Nintendo in developing the audio chip used for the then-upcoming SNES, Nintendo entered into a partnership with Sony to jointly develop an add-on for the SNES that would use a CD-based format for games. The idea to create the add-on originated from Sony employee Ken Kutaragi, who strongly advocated CD-ROM technology over cartridges. Although Nintendo rejected the idea at first, Kutaragi kept pushing the device until Nintendo agreed to develop it.
Under the agreement, Sony would develop both the add-on and the "Play Station", a full console combining the functionality of both the add-on and the SNES. Nintendo and Sony, however, could not agree on the disk format that the system would use; to combat piracy, Nintendo desired to use a proprietary format they referred to as a "Nintendo Disk", a mini-disc inside of a shell which also used a lockout chip, while Sony instead desired to use a normal CD-ROM format with the lockout chip being inside the hardware. Licensing issues also arose, as under Sony's terms, it would keep licensing rights to all games produced on the disc format.
Desiring better terms, president Hiroshi Yamauchi secretly sent Minoru Arakawa and Howard Lincoln from Nintendo of America to the headquarters of Sony's business rival Philips in Europe to negotiate a better deal, under which Nintendo would keep all licensing rights for games, while Nintendo's properties could have games developed for the Phillips CD-i multimedia player. Therefore, in June 1991, at the Chicago Consumer Electronics Show, one day after Sony's unveiling of the Play Station, Nintendo announced that it would be instead working with Phillips to create the CD add-on.
In 1992, Nintendo renegotiated terms with both Philips and Sony, and all three agreed to continue joint development of the add-on, the "Nintendo Disk Drive". Games would also use the standard CD format, allowing for cross-compatibility between all three machines. Under the new terms, Nintendo would keep all licensing rights for games, while Sony would have rights to non-video game media, and Phillips would retain the rights to having Nintendo games on the CD-i. However in 1993, Nintendo, due to the overly long development time, concerns over how well the system would interface with the add-on, and seeing the commercial failure of SEGA's Sega CD add-on for their Sega Genesis console, finally ceased development for the add-on.
While Sony would continue to develop its Play Station console, it is reported that only 200 prototype systems in various physical forms were ever manufactured before the project was scrapped, and Sony would instead use the experience to develop its own console, named the PlayStation. In addition, Philips, as part of the initial deal, retained Nintendo's license to use five of their characters in games for the CD-i. The games produced using Nintendo's licenses (Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda's Adventure, and Hotel Mario) were all met with mixed to poor reception critically, and the CD-i itself was a commercial failure.
According to former Sony chairman Shigeo Maruyama, the add-on was originally planned to be a CD-ROM drive that attached to the SNES over the cartridge slot. It would have run discs using the core hardware rather than Mask ROMs.
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