After delving into the unlikely beginnings of Nintendo in last weeks Retro Friday
, I started thinking about how other video game companies got their start. From what I could gather western game companies, for the most part, were either established with the express purpose of making games or they started in related industries and evolved into gaming. The Japanese? Well as we've come to expect, with the Japanese it's never that straight forward.
Before producing its own games Tecmo was a wholesaler of amusement equipment, vending machines and the like. The progression to arcade machines was a logical step in the companies growth and before long they were produced their first original arcade game, a shoot-'em-up called Pleiads. Today the company is best known for Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive.
But from 1967, when the company was founded and 1969, before they cottoned on to the idea of becoming a leading light in the area of boob physics, Tecmo was a company best know for selling cleaning equipment. Yeah, I can't track the change either.
In the 80s and early 90s, Nintendo was video games. But it did receive a rather massive challenge to its supremacy in the form of SEGA. Like Nintendo, SEGA was Japanese company that produced it's own hardware and had a signature mascot character that subsuming the minds of impressionable children. Also like Nintendo, SEGA's origins have an odd twist.
SEGA started out as an importer of photo-booths, that progressed to arcade machines, which lead to manufacturing their own arcade machines and eventually home consoles. Ok, so where's the weird part? At the risk of being called Captain Obvious, but SEGA is a very Japanese company, so the weird part is that it was started by an American, David Rosen.
Formed in 1954, Rosen Enterprises was importer of photo-booths on to US Airforce bases in Japan that would late expand its business into theaters and department stores. Rosen Enterprises would merge with Jukebox and slot machine manufacture Service Games - also owned by American - to form SEGA in 1965 the name derived from SErvcie GAmes.
That the company was started by an American is that unusual, but that it sustained Japanese culture is, since Rosen was a chief management influence within the company until 1996 when he retired. Guess he went native.
Nowadays known as the other half of that company that makes the Final Fantasy games, Enix started out as a company called Eidansha Boshu Service Center. Founded by architect Yasuhiro Fukushima, the company was established as a tabloid publisher, with the express purpose of selling ads to the real estate industry.
In 1982, Fukushima tried to take the company nationwide. The attempt failed, at which point Fukushima said "Screw it. I'll sell games instead." No really. That's how it went down. So he renamed the company Enix and held a game design contest to promote his new company. The contest was won by Yuji Horii, who would go on to create the company's seminal Dragon Quest franchise.
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