The console we know as the original PlayStation started as a Sony-created CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo, but Nintendo and Sony had a dispute over publishing rights, leading to the cancellation of the joint initiative and the birth of the Sony as a video-gaming power. But what if Nintendo and Sony took a cue from Al Green and stayed together? Let’s take a look at how the world of video gaming might look in this alternate timeline of video game history.
1991 — Thanks to the collaboration between Sony and Nintendo, Nintendo does not enter a limited partnership with Phillips, so the Phillips CD-i is never created. This alternate reality is spared a slew of awful games starring Nintendo characters like Hotel Mario and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon.
1992 — The Sega CD is released in October of 1992. The console exhibits a lackluster debut due to a lack of available software.
1993 — Nintendo releases the Super Nintendo CD in the Summer of 1993, the early fruits of its collaboration with Sony. In our reality, prototypes of the Super Nintendo CD do exist. This add-on to the Super Nintendo is met with mixed reviews, as consumers are reluctant to shell out a substantial amount of money for a console add-on.
1994 — also sees the release of an unusual little device – the CD-ROM-based Apple Pippin. Initially met with disdain, the Apple Pippin sees new life when the price is dropped to $199 (the same price as the Super Nintendo CD or Sega CD add-ons), as Apple attempts to make a forceful entry into the video-game industry and break up the Nintendo/Sony/Sega strangle hold.
The release of the Nintendo Virtual Boy, originally scheduled for release in the Summer of 1995, is put on hold so as not to compete with the upcoming release of the Nintendo PlayStation. For a time, Nintendo continues to develop cartridge-based video-game technology, including the Nintendo 64 and Virtual Boy, to keep a set of in-house hardware developers active.
1996 — Nintendo/Sony releases the Nintendo PlayStation. The “NPS” uses CD-ROM technology, but a proprietary form encased in a plastic holder so as to prevent piracy. The Nintendo PlayStation, due to its extensive development period, enters the Sega and Apple-dominated market with a wide array of first and third-party titles.
Development of the Nintendo 64 and the Virtual Boy, the last home gaming consoles to rely on cartridge-based technology, is abandoned.
1997 — Thanks to the success of the Apple Pippin, Steve Jobs does not return to Apple. What eventually becomes Mac OS X is radically different, and the iPod, as the stylish-yet-function device we know, is never created.
Eager to enter the video-game market, Microsoft courts the development teams associated with the Nintendo 64 and Virtual Boy (the latter of which includes Gunpei Yokoi, creator of Metroid). The teams, however, are fiercely loyal to Nintendo, and do not accept Microsoft’s offer.
1998 — Apple releases the Crispin, a handheld color video gaming console that uses CDs for game storage and interacts with the Apple Pippin. The connectivity between the Apple Crispin and Pippin is praised, with the new capabilties adding years to the Pippin’s console life and extending the console generation well into the 2000s.
1999 — The success of the Pippin and memories of its control of the handheld gaming market prompt Nintendo and Sony to extend their partnership to handheld consoles. The PlayStation Dash is released, making use of SonyMiniDisc technology.
2000 — A unified Sony/Nintendo offense sprouts the offshoot company Hǎo, in Shanghai, China. The companies do so in order to combat legislation that seeks to ban video games within the country (in our reality, this ban succeeds). Hǎo gains a stranglehold on the Chinese market with a redesigned version of the Nintendo PlayStation and becomes the only retailer of video games within the country.
2001 — Microsoft, locked in a home PC struggle with Apple as its OS X is similar to Windows 98, decides to enter the video game console market, releasing the Xbox in November of 2000 in hopes of beating Apple’s next console to market. The console is rushed, large, and lacks stylization as well as Halo, a much awaited title that is unavailable at launch. Xbox consoles linger on store shelves, spiking with the release of Halo, but not enough to prevent Microsoft from abandoning the console market in Quarter 1 of 2005.
2002 — The Sega Dreamcast is released, Sega’s first completely new home console since the Saturn. Sega gets the edge on the fledgling Nintendo PlayStation and Apple Pippin, which are declining in sales and new games due to the end of their respective life cycles. In this reality, the Dreamcast benefits from an additional two years of development time.
The Xbox does not die, however, as its exploitable operating system makes it the console of choice for modders and programming architecture that allows it to play both DreamCast and Nintendo Playstation games. Used Xbox consoles continue to sell well over the next decade.
2003 — The Apple Pippin II is released. To spite Microsoft, Apple purchases Bungie, a small video-game developer responsible for the Xbox’s sole critically acclaimed game.
2004 — Microsoft enters the handheld market using games played on now-inexpensive flash storage technology and offering a variety of free-to-download games available via PC connection.
2005 — Halo: Onslaught is released, with Apple emphasizing Bungie to produce a product with pick up-and-play appeal. This emphasis leads to plans for an online multiplayer system to be scrapped.
2006 — Nintendo, lacking a significant foothold in the increasingly large mobile-gaming market, includes motion controls with their newly released PlayStation 2 consoles. Hardened gamers scoff, but this addition, along with the ease of programming for the console, allows it to succeed.
2007 — Sega’s sales wane thanks to Apple and Sony/Nintendo’s aggressive negotiations with third-party developers. Looking for a portal into the peripheral market, Sega releases a handheld gaming console that also acts as a controller for the Dreamcast. The controllers, however, already heavily subsidized by Sega, retail for $99.99.
2008 — Apple and Nintendo openly talk about purchasing Sega. Apple desires the intellectual properties an acquisition of Sega could bring, and in in the Fall of 2008, Apple purchases Sega.
2009 — Nintendo releases a cartridge peripheral for the NPS2, the Bridge, which makes the system fully backwards compatible with NES and SNES games. This opens up the entire Nintendo library to players within one system.
2010 — The portable Nintendo PlayStation Jump is released, continuing the use of proprietary software started with the Dash. The bulky portable console also contains a calling featuring when a Wifi source is available. The option is rarely used.
Gaming hits a lull, as game developers have hit a wall in processor speed as Sony, Nintendo, and Apple have artificially extended the life of the current console generation. The two major consoles have dev kits of the next generation available, but are unwilling to commit to a release date.
2011 — With Sega out of the gaming market and a vacuum in the console market, Microsoft considers a second attempt to enter the home-console market. Investors are firmly against the venture, even with the success of the Microsoft’s portable console line. Pressure from executives forces Microsoft to shut down development of a follow-up portable console.
2012 — The world ends with the culmination of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, 2012, putting an end to video gaming.