Once upon a time, Nintendo and Sony agreed to work together on a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES: the PlayStation. As you probably already know, it never materialized, and there are as many reasons for why as there were Sony PlayStations sold. Even over 20 years later, however, new information keeps materializing. In an interview with NintendoLife, Jez San, founder of Argonaut Software, revealed the Super FX chip — the thing that gave the SNES the ability to do 3D graphics — was planned for inclusion in the SNES PlayStation.
Nintendo and the Super FX chip
San talked about his experience developing the Super FX chip for Nintendo systems. It was printed and placed in individual game carts, like Star Fox and Stunt Race FX. The games that used the Super FX chip were visually amazing. At a time when graphics were possibly the most important part of a video game, Nintendo was king. When it came time to develop the add-on to the SNES, there was no doubt that Argonaut would be involved with another iteration of the Super FX chip. San shared the following about their involvement:
When we designed the Super FX chip for Nintendo, It was too late to make it into the Japanese version of the SNES. But with the American version, they were contemplating having it built in, which would have made the games cartridges much cheaper, and would have also meant that 3D was a standard in the console. In the end, we missed out on that. But then, initially, Nintendo and Sony were going to do a PlayStation with a CD attached to a SNES, with our chip in it – ours was going to be the 3D chip inside the original PlayStation. Then Sony and Nintendo fell out.
The collaboration never happened, and so Argonaut shifted to game development and other projects. Eventually, the company went under thanks to Catwoman and the rest is history.
The interview is long but a great read on the history of the Super Nintendo and the Super FX chip that revolutionized the industry. There’s so much more, such as San making the bold assertion that Nintendo “doesn’t actually employ that many good programmers.” Check it out and reminisce on what could have been.