Maybe I'm just stupid, I usually am, but I always get a bit sad when a video game developer/publisher goes down, especially
if its one known from the NES days.
Here's is some sort of a tribute to one of the first companies to sign up to develop for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
It all began around 1986 when Minoru Arakawa of Nintendo of America was looking around for possible licensees to develop for
the NES. It took about half a year from the launch of the NES in the US before the first licensee signed up, most of them
being American subsidiaries if Japanese developers.
One of these companies was Data East USA Inc, which was run by a former professional basketball player, Bob Lloyd. Data East
was already having a foot in the Arcade and Pinball business. At first Lloyd wasn't showing much interest, though he had been
Nintendo's sales charts in 1985, so a meeting was set up.
Lloyd was sent a draft of the thirdparty contract before the meeting with Nintendo to discuss the details, he was already
having a problem with the contract which stated that he, Data East, had to make an order atleast 10.000 units to be
manufactured at a time, but he wanted to be able to buy smaller quantities after the initial batch.
Nintendo denied to make any exceptions and the deal was eventually signed by Lloyd anyway. According to the book, Game Over,
the early picensees sold an average of 75.000 copies of every game they produced, and Lloyd was often teased with the demand
to buy smaller quantities by Arakawa when Data East was placing orders for serveral 100.000 cartridges.
Data East released their first NES game in October 1986, following is a complete release list of American releases, sorted
in the order they were released:
Tag Team Wrestling, Oct 86
Karate Champ, Nov 86
Burgertime, May 87
Side Pocket, Jun 87
Ring King, Sep 87
Kid Niki, Nov 87
Break Thru!, Nov 87
Karnov, Jan 88
Cobra Command, Nov 88
Rampage, Dec 88
RoboCop, Dec 89
Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum, Feb 90
Heavy Barrel, Mar 90
Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing, Mar 90
Bad Dudes, Jul 90
Battle Chess, Jul 90
Caveman Games, Oct 90
Werewolf: The Last Warrior, Nov 90
RoboCop 2, Apr 91
Bo Jackson Baseball, Oct 91
Captain America and the Avengers, Dec 91
Joe & Mac, Dec 92
To be honest, Data East never has been one of my favourite developer/publishers, but fact is that they released a couple of
NES games which can be considered as classics today, I'm talking about Burgertime and Karnov, probably the two Data East
games I've enjoyed the most.
While they weren't one of the best companies to make and release games, they sure are above the league that counts crappy
companies such as THQ and HiTech Expressions, I still wonder how THQ managed to stay in business and how they still manage
to release some of the worst videogames ever created, oh well.
Anyway, Data East have had a few bunps and bruises along the way, such as the case where Orion Pictures prosecuted Data East
for infringement of ROBOCOP trademark in consumer computer games. Unfortunately I've not been able to dig up much information
about that issue yet.
In 1988 Data East sued Epyx because of a Commodore64 game called World Karate Championship, developed by System3. Data East
felt the game was a complete ripoff of their 1984 arcade hit, and one of the first NES games to be released in the states,
called Karate Champ. The court agreed that Xpys' game was very similar to Data Easts game and decided to forbid Epyx from
further distribution of World Karate Championship, and also ordered them to issue a recall.
However Epyx was not beaten yet and they took the case to a higher court, which then reversed the previous decision of the
district court. The following quote was taken from STart Magazine (www.atarimagazines.com)
Epyx Wins Copyright Suit
In what has been called a "major victory" in the software copyright field, a Federal Court of Appeals reversed an
earlier decision that Epyx, Inc. had violated copyrights of Data East, a Japanese video-game maker.
The suit, brought against the computer game publisher based in Redwood City, California, was an attempt to secure
copyright protection for Data East's Karate Champ Game. The appellate court upheld the right of game developers
"to create and distribute products that express the same ideas, even if the products are similar."
Commenting on the decision, Epyx chairman and CEO David Morse said, "We believe this is the first time in the computer
industry that a 'look and feel' lawsuit has been decided in favor of the defendant."
But the most known case happened in the late NES days and actually didn't have anything to do with their NES games.
In 1994 a lawsuit took place, Capcom Vs. Data East Corporation/Data East ISA, Inc. Capcom sued Data East for copying
their Street Fighter games' characters and features because of a game Data East had released in 1993 called Fighter's
History. However the court dismissed the case.
Later in 1994, Data East Corporation, the Japanese mother company, decided it was time to get out of the Arcade/Pinball
business, of which Data East USA had been a big part of, but things were slowing down for Data East USA and they were
sold off to Sega.
Data East Coporation was founded on April 20, 1976, and was declared bankrupt by the district court of Tokyo on June 25 2003 and an
announced was made to the public on 8th June 2003. This happened after the company had been in financial trouble since
1999, where they made a settlement in the district court to reorganize its finances, because of a 3.3 billion
yen ($28 million) debt.