Nintendo, Sony form unique alliance Companies work together on CD system for TV sets

October 14, 1992|By Seattle Times

SEATTLE -- In an unprecedented move for the U.S. marketplace, Nintendo will let another hardware maker -- Sony -- sell Super Nintendo systems.

Nintendo, the dominant maker of video games, and Sony, the consumer electronics giant, announced they are collaborating on a system to link computer compact discs with TV sets.

Sony will market a machine, tentatively called Play Station, combining a Super Nintendo cartridge player with a compact-disc drive and advanced microprocessor. Nintendo will sell a compact disc drive, also equipped with the microprocessor, which plugs into its cartridge system.

"This stretches well beyond a simple agreement," said Bill White, a Nintendo spokesman. "It's really a strategic alliance with Sony to develop both hardware and software."

The system, which is expected to be available by next August, will usethe CD-ROM XA format, which is capable of better video and sound performance than current systems. A "bridge format" is being developed to permit compatibility with the CD-I system made by Dutch electronics giant Philips, which has been on the market for several months but has failed to capture much interest.

Both Sony and Nintendo gained competitive leverage in the deal. Texas-based Tandy Corp. recently announced its compact-disc system for TVs, the Video Information System. Sega, Nintendo's chief competitor, is on the verge of introducing its own compact-disc system.

The Nintendo-Sony system will be equipped with an advanced 32-bit microprocessor to enhance video display and performance. Existing systems give herky-jerky moving images, but the new technology is expected to provide "full-motion" video performance similar to TV and movies.

"The goal is to provide a vast array of new CD-ROM-based game and non-game software," Mr. White said, adding that Nintendo will decide which programs fall into which categories.

Sony recently introduced a portable Multimedia Player using the XAformat and Microsoft's DOS computer operating system, along with a Microsoft programming tool called Multimedia Viewer, which allows developers to adapt programs to Microsoft's Windows operating system for personal computers.

Sony announced that several major developers, including Microsoft, Random House, Compton's and IBM, would develop programs for the player. But it has not yet been determined whether the discs will play on the Nintendo system, said Rick Clancy, a Sony of America spokesman.

"Until Nintendo decides on a format for the new system, it's an open issue," Mr. Clancy said.

Sony and Nintendo hope the new system will establish a standard in the crowded and largely incompatible compact-disc market.

"This agreement, which encompasses both hardware and software development, is an important milestone in the video game industry," Minoru Arakawa, president of Nintendo of America, said in a statement. "The development and marketing of the Super NES CD-ROM XA format by Sony and Nintendo will create the accepted standard for CD programming around the world."

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