Children’s biggest fears are the dark, the closet monster, and opening a present that turns out to be a PolyStation. At least for those born between the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. There was no greater misfortune than a family member with little knowledge of video games had to take care of the Christmas present, because there the chances of some unscrupulous clerk foisting on them increased. PolyStation making them believe that they were taking the console that every child dreams of.
PolyStation’s hard years are over. The rise of video games on mobile phones and tablets has led to the need to find cheap alternatives for home entertainment. What happened to those dire consoles that seemed to be who they never were? What were they really like? Who was behind them? Why did they ruin so many childhoods?
The PolyStation, on video
What was the PolyStation capable of? How did it work inside? Was its build quality in line with what the “brand” was supposed to do? Let’s see it in action.
PlayStation on the outside, NES on the inside
Although we know them mainly by the “brand” PolyStation, there are plenty of clone consoles with different names but quite similar architectures. The reason is that inside, all those clones ** were practically the same: they worked with a cartridge like the NES ones, although by their design they seemed to contain a disc reader. For example, in this photo we can see on the left a PolyStation that imitates the design of the original PlayStation. On the right, another that imitates the design of the PS One, of the same generation but smaller.
Anyone would say at first glance that they work with compact discs, like the consoles they appeared to be. Not really. Another photo of the same PolyStation on the left, showing the cartridge slot.
A curiosity: most of the original NES cartridges also worked on these consoles. With a slightly poorer graphic level than on the original console, but they worked. Another “advantage” of these consoles was that they could run both European and Japanese cartridges.
The reason for the existence of the PolyStation itself —and clones in general—, as well as its operation using cartridges, can be found in the birth of the NoaC (NES on a Chip), a technology that appeared in the early nineties that made it possible to jibarize the motherboard of the NES to turn it into a tiny and quite affordable chip.
The advent of the NoaC allowed not only anyone to make their own variant of the NES, but also to make it in whatever design they wanted: the space limitations of the original motherboard were gone. The only problem then was the illegality to distribute famiclonesas they began to be called making a play on words with famicomthe name by which the NES was known in China, the result of the union of Family Computer.
So, making famiclones was always illegal for a matter of patents and intellectual property rights. Guess who got up to it? Bingo! China saw the birth of several small companies that dedicated themselves to manufacturing them with the idea of selling them, mainly, in countries that were not economically developed enough to sell original consoles en masse, but with enough development to have televisions in the vast majority of homes. This explains why several Latin American countries saw a boom in these video consoles.
Another basic requirement for the sale of famiclones in foreign markets was that they were countries that were as lax as possible regarding intellectual property and patent laws. In the absence of total freedom of movement to sell these consoles, they resorted to limiting their trade to small surfaces, leaving out franchises and department stores. And once you start manufacturing cheaply and skipping Nintendo’s patents… why not save on your own designs and make them with Sony designs? And so it happened: the PlayStation gave image and name to most of the new creations… the PolyStation. There were other consoles that were also “inspiration” for these clones, here we can see a few.
One of the most popular companies to launch into the production of famiclones was G.L.K.acronym for Gold Leopard King. She was the one who launched even games like this soccer one. Attention to the penalty kick system:
This console also arrived in Spain, and with a stellar translation. “Gold Leopard King” mutated, like a Kafian cockroach, into “Rey de Leopardo”. To hell with the gold. He arrived on Iberian soil with the slogan “New Computer Type” (without the ‘t’), and a vital maxim printed on the box: “I study and entertain, entertain and study”. For its design, they did not hesitate to put all the meat on the grill as far as WordArt resources are concerned.
Somewhat later, with the transition from the 90s to the 2000s, Rey de Leopardo threw the house out the window and went from the GLK-2012 model to the GLK-1239. Don’t let the seemingly inferior name mislead you: it was clearly superior. It had a more ergonomic keyboard, they corrected the absence of the ‘t’ in the word “computer” and the slogan was improved: “Study and entertain, entertain and study”. And as if that were not enough, they put in the photos of Raúl, Totti and Jeremies to try to sell more with the Euro 2000 campaign.
a zillion games
PolyStation and company used to display commercial slogans on their boxes that made their purchase more attractive: “99 games in one”, when not “999 games in one” or directly and openly “999,999 games in one”. As soon as you liked 20% of the titles, you already had to play until the day of your retirement. Of course, there was cheating.
It was true that the cartridges that contained the games used to offer several in one. The issue was what differentiated one from the other. Often just the name (‘Bomberman 08’, ‘Bomberman 12’, ‘Bomberman 58’…), or the color palette used. We could play twenty-five different ‘Super Mario Bros’ that were actually identical, but changed the color of Mario’s clothes or the sky on the home screen. This is how games were added until they managed to promise eternal entertainment. Error 404: honesty not found.
It wasn’t the only lie in the box. It was also often indicated that it had stereo sound, but if the NES itself was already simply mono, the clones were more of the same: they had a single audio jack. Sometimes there was a direct mix of deceptions, induced confusions and jumps into corporate ethics bullfighting that directly caused nonsense such as the mixture of Nintendo and PlayStation logos. Why just confuse unsuspecting consumers with one brand when they could do it with two? In this photo, quadruple deadly combo: Namco + Nintendo + PlayStation + stereo sound.
Since most famiclones were hollow inside, since the NOAC and the circuitry took up very little space, the freedom when designing formats was very high. The casing imitated much more complex consoles or with a disc player, but in this case it was pure ornament.
If PlayStation designs were cloned, it was for the simple reason that it was the most popular console at the time, but as we have seen before, it was not just the Sony console that was usurped. In fact, it was the one that popularized the product the most, but there were some even before. The chronological order is as follows.
- First generation. NES/Famicom clones.
- Second generation. SNES and Megadrive became the most popular consoles on the market, and therefore the most used to create clones.
- Third generation. The turning point, the beginning of copies of the PlayStation, both the original and the slimmer and smaller One. Here occurred the boom of production.
- Fourth generation: New formats were created that imitated even handheld consoles or media players, which used an emulator to run NES ROM games. They were inserted into the device via USB.
Within the world of famiclones, a nuance must be made: Sharp launched a model licensed by Nintendo on the market. It was him Twin Famicom, which only made it to Japan. It had some advantages, such as the possibility of inserting a 3.5″ floppy disk -some games only appeared in this format-, the fifteen-pin connectors for the controllers that the Famicom had but not the NES, or a microphone on one of the controls.
This microphone was used for a few games, such as the Japanese version of ‘Legend of Zelda‘, where we could kill enemies by screaming or blowing at him. He had no voice recognition, he only detected variations in the number of decibels, so he really didn’t care what to do, whether shouting or throwing chairs on the floor was going to achieve the same effect. The incorporation of the microphone was not free: in exchange, it was left without buttons Select neither start. In this photo you can see both the Twin Famicom itself and the second controller without those buttons.
Today the Twin Famicom can be found for between 150 and 200 euros on eBay. The PolyStations, possibly due to their nature as a mere cheap copy, are not even for sale on this platform. A search with your name only returns results for RAM boards In AliBaba no luck either. The PolyStation years continued, and they were never content to imitate the first PlayStation. The first was followed by the second, with a similar design, and then the third, this time unfolded in the usual style, and also in a very strange portable version… in the form of a desktop console.
It was not something ephemeral
The worrying thing about the continuity of these consoles is that if they continued to reach the market, renewing themselves with each new generation and iteration, It’s because it worked commercially put the deformed Sony or PlayStation logos on it. The fake worked that didn’t even try not to look like a fake. The PolyStation was, despite everything, the most stable of all copies of famous game consoles.
Another unknown surrounding the PolyStation is whether these consoles were sold in video game stores, and whether their designs and brands could get them into trouble with Sony or Nintendo. The answer is simple: they took advantage of a small legal loophole and the very concept that these consoles had of themselves. When they arrived at customs, they passed through it like mere toys. At best, like generic electronic gaming machines. Never as consoles registered with that name, as a group of lawyers points out. This allowed them to reach bazaars in the middle of the peninsula.
Today, the presence of PolyStations, at least in Spain, is practically non-existent. Some possible causes are the spread of video consoles, something that has made it much easier to detect them as plagiarism, or the arrival of smartphones and tablets, something that has led children’s entertainment towards these devices. Cheap consoles that connect to the TV are not only unnecessary, but also a nuisance: they take up a TV, which tablets do not.