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TSR Newsletter  |  July 23, 2013

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The Japanese Absence in the Western Amusement Mix!
1  |  # 888


Report Skinny
1/07/13 - It has not gone without some notice that the traditional Japanese amusement factories have been absent of late from any large release presence in the Western amusement trade. Though noticed, it is a subject that has gone without comment from the traditional sources. Well it's time that the situation is evaluated, especially as many of these Japanese corporations face their fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries, along with the ramifications for the trade this absence will cause - in this first part of a two-part report.
Main Report

The generation currently inhabiting a position of authority in the Western amusement trade has existed in a world that has been continuously populated by a steady supply of Japanese video amusement pieces. A world without this supply would be a wasteland. If not - and worse - a world without the Japanese factories "box of delights" would cease to exist as a viable market. Already we have seen some industry experts attempt to write-off videos as a dead genre in amusement, pointing to redemption as the new savior!


But what is the reality? Where have the Japanese videos' gone? And where does the future of this very profitable genre now lie in a market under extreme pressure to offer a solid business base once again?

- The Japanese Factories


For those that have grown up with video amusement as a vital and vibrant aspect of the amusement landscape, the collapse of Japanese factory influence on the current amusement trade is of serious concern. Seen as a well-respected and familiar face, it is not present at a time when the traditional amusement trade seems at its most vulnerable, and where we seem to be once again in the dark looking for a path to move forward along. To understand how we have got to this point we also need to be mindful of our history. In this part of the feature we list the six key amusement factories that have lined many a distributor and agents pocket in the amusement trade over the last forty odd years!


SEGA - (Service Games established in 1940 - later changing to Sega Enterprises in 1965). From humble beginnings in the photo booth, jukes and mechanical games sector, it would be through successful international placement of their electro-mechanical game ('Periscope') that the company would be seen as a good fit to be acquired by Gulf + Western. With new-found resources SEGA would assimilate a number of times with US based distributors/agents in trying to find the right representation of their properties. The 1979 merger of the US operation with Gremlin Industries created one of the best known partnerships between West and Eastern amusement aspirations - Gremlin/Sega would see a hoard of licensed titles, till the 1982 crash and closure (assets finally acquired by Bally).


After obtaining its independence from Gulf + Western in 1983, for $38m, SEGA would see acquisition of agents in the West as inevitable during their phase of international expansion and the purchase of venues. Most notably SEGA has been seen as having acquired agents with debts, rather than agents with opportunities - the infamous Deith Sales acquisition in 1991 a case in point. While in the States the grand aspirations of SEGA's involvement with Universal Studios and DreamWorks would result in its collapse and a management buy-out of the operations assets. After the Sammy merger in 2005, the restructuring of a US presence reverted to a special agent relationship and enterprises residing in Europe under
SEGA Amusement Europe
SEGA, (now six months from celebrating their 50th anniversary in the market), still looks upon the West as a unfulfilled amusement market, where EU and US compete for attention with viable sales against new markets like the UAE offering great returns - the company representing a majority of home grown titles and third party representation; and SEGA's parent allowing autonomy for internal R&D working with external developers like the well-respected Gamewax (most recently on the video 'Dream Raiders' or the Videmption title 'Pirates of Monster Island'). While none of the Japanese Amusement Expo (JAEPO'13) main launch titles seen on the Tokyo show floor are proposed to make landfall outside of Asia, (no matter how many Loctest attempts at key Western sites). SEGA itself is experimenting with third party development using Chinese studios, a highly-secret undertaking that other Japanese factories have also gone on to dabble with. Sources in the amusement sector rumoring that a brand new deluxe shooter based on the 'Transformers' movie IP being planned for release through this channel (watch this space). 

Editor's Notes - The number of anniversaries in the sector is quite interesting - June marked the 22nd anniversary of the SEGA mascot Sonic The Hedgehog - created to compete with Mario. Though a popular consumer console game character - Sonic's first appearance was in a video amusement title. Dangling from the windshield of the 1991 release 'Rad Mobile' - a few months before appearing in his own game on the SEGA Mega Drive.

NAMCO Bandai Games - (established as Nakamura Manufacturing Company in 1955 - later changing to Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company in 1958). The company started its amusement business in 1963, installing their 'Rocking Horse Ride' attraction on the rooftop of Mitsukoshi main department store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. The company would sidestep any issues of possible brand infringements licensing characters directly from Walt Disney Company in the States. With the move to the NAMCO brand name in 1970 the company turned its investment wholly towards amusement.


1976 saw NAMCO acquire the rights to Atari's 'BreakOut', only to be overwhelmed by its success in the market - running out of 'official' board-sets, and accused of manufacturing their own 'version' of the original, a dispute was not settled for many years, and energized Atari Inc., to establish a Japanese manufacturing and distribution operation to address the accusation of illegal gangs profiting from the then success of video amusement in the territory. NAMCO's official original international release 'Gee Bee' in 1978 ('Racer' in 1971 being their actual first), was treated appallingly outside of Japan - hijacked as their own by Gremlin Industries, never admitting it was licensed from Japan. The same would happen to the phenomenally successful 'Puck Man' - renamed and repackaged for Western deployment by Midway Manufacturing. NAMCO's inability to meet demand in the West would see Midway unofficially create their own version / sequel of the game - 'Pac-Man Plus' and 'Ms. Pac-Man' going into folklore - later licensed back to NAMCO, as executives attempted to airbrush this unsavory chapter in the mascot's rise.


The support of a new and emerging amusement development territory (as Japan represented in the 1980's) was fostered by Western factories, seeing Atari and Bally making equity investments (called a "good will gesture") with NAMCO, this investment to safeguard an intended closer relationships and ensure the Japanese factory kept to a straight-and-narrow approach to legal machine development. This would turn full circle by 1983, with Atari's fledgling Japanese manufacturing operation acquired by NAMCO - followed in 1986 by NAMCO acquiring 43.5% of the then Atari Games Inc., - flooding the American scene with amusement titles through Atari, and gaining a wealth of R&D, (this investment finally sold in 1990).


The NAMCO international presence it is more diverse than other Japanese factories in the West - their satellite operation based on the acquisition of Atari's Operation division with the sale of their investment in 1990 that also included the acquisition of the influential Atari Games Ireland Inc., manufacturing and distribution division - that has reverted into the NAMCO Europe Ltd., we know today. Gaining from the ruins of Atari a fully-fledged and localized sales and operation presence in the West, without the need for Japanese education of the peculiarities of Western amusement business. NAMCO Europe Ltd., currently led from the London offices is fueled by Asian and American development and third party representation through their retained distributor Brent Sales. With US amusement business as well as research & development of localized pieces driven by NAMCO America Inc.

NAMCO Bandai Games' amusement presence in the West is one of the few Japanese subsidiaries that still sees interchange of Japanese-inspired and developed titles making Western landfall. Most recently, the Theater Enclosure amusement release 'Dark Escape 4D' was the largest and most ambitious Japanese factory "box of delight" to make Western shores; other Japanese-sourced titles include 'Deadstorm Pirate', and 'Dead Heat' (that saw Japanese R&D staff travel to the West to collect local color to add to the game), as well as 'Pac-Man Battle Royale'. With an increased interest in facility operation, NAMCO Bandai Games has handed a large amount of autonomy to their Western executive structure. As with SEGA, NAMCO management have been given their head, developing their own specially created Western projects working with external independent studios, like the famous Raw Thrills - having jointly created the Videmption title 'Pac-Man Smash'.


NAMCO Bandai Games has also turned towards reevaluating what is meant by "international" amusement sales - the company having ramped up investment in Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, and Australia - with the deployment of their ALL.Net equipped game content - promoting 'Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4' to these territories. In the West, however, NAMCO American Inc., has confidential plans afoot to launch new titles, testing a brand new deluxe jet fighter amusement piece (under the working title 'SonicStorm'), confirming the evolving investment in this sector, (watch this space).

Editor's Notes - We have to be mindful how much influence the Japanese GM executive team still can apply towards their Western subsidiaries, as seen with the efforts that were made right up to the bitter end to demand the deployment of a Western solution to applying Japanese beat-em-up content to the market. Though initially proposed to be released as a JAMMA kit to the 2013 market, since the Stinger Report broke the story, there is still yet to be any web based or flyer based promotion of this availability. The question has to be asked, regarding the deployment of content into the Western stream - who actually wields the power? And what is the reality of the Japanese executive tasked to sell the product in the West, against the sales team encamped within that market?


When Taito in Japan was approached to confirm the scope of this part of our feature regarding their operation past and present; they declined to confirm or deny the information - which was collected from publicly available sources.

Beyond these two stories of successful integration and forward development in the Western sector, the remainder of the Japanese invasion into the Western amusement scene is a story of retreat rather than advancement.


Taito - (Taito Trading Company founded in 1953) - after licensing jukeboxes from the States (licensed through Seeburg), and dabbling in mechanical amusement the company would release, what the corporation history calls "Japan's first professional TV game" ('Elepong' - in 1973), which in fact was an emulation of Atari's 'PONG', for the Japanese market. This kind of 'emulation' of Western titles saw the type of complaint that has now been leveled currently at the emerging Asian Dragon manufacturers, as it was leveled at the Japanese factories some thirty years previously.


Taito would have a hard baptism of fire dealing with the Western market - such as with the 1975 success 'Western Gun' - a game that was in fact a homage to the Midway Manufacturing Co. title 'Gun Fight' that year. This was an aspect of the 1970's market: that Japan was treated as a territory that "borrowed" heavily from the West. But the tables would be turned and the West would come cap in hand to Taito, fighting for the license rights for the title 'Space Invaders' in 1978. To protect themselves, Taito would utilize its links with certain Western agents to try and build a citadel of protections against the local trade - first, in creating a permanent position with a US executive, and then in acquiring control of a friendly distributor, renaming Allied Leisure (renown themselves for outselling Atari 'PONG' with their clone 'Paddle Battle'), to become the famous Centuri, (under the tag-line "we're inventing what the future will bring"!)


After the closure of Centuri, (and fueled by the phenomenal success of 'Space Invaders' and sequels) the aspirations from this point was to establish a strong Western presence, Taito America started in 1979, ditching links with third party licensees like Midway, and fathered a reliable conduit to support the Western market with Japanese factory content as well as the ability to distribute less developers content in the West (such as Toaplan, Technos and Allumer,to name a few). This association with the Western amusement trade did, however, breed content and it was under much confusion and much accusation that Taito's Western amusement operation closed shop in 1995. Reverting to agent representation the Taito brand dimmed in the West. Even still, popular games were released, but the clawing of the distributors to control their circulation made them unpalatable for the majority of the trade. 2013 would see the Japanese Overseas sales executive depart, and Taito enter hibernation towards a Western approach.


Post the merger with Square-ENIX (in 2005), and while Taito has promoted the celebration of the 35th Japanese release anniversary (1978) of 'Space Invaders' - the Taito has failed to market the 60th anniversary of its core operation. With no real Western representation, and a selection of titles shown at JAEPO'13 that would find it hard to wet Western appetites, the company seems to be in a position of reflection on future Western involvement. Originality is not bereft from the company's Japanese investment, along with Taito's successful tournament network infrastructure NESiCA, the company also launching their NESiCAxLIVE network that offers a download "juke-box" style approach to game delivery onto cabinets - a concept that has allowed third-party studios once again to benefit from Taito's install-base, (companies such as Arc System Works, Capcom, Cave, Atlas, Ekusamu, Treasure and MOSS to name a few). This approach is emulated by SEGA with their own network platform. For the West, we will have to wait and hope that Taito can find a path by itself of with support from its parent to find Western recognition. 

Konami Digital Entertainment - (established as Kagemasa Kozuki Company in 1953, Konami Industry would be founded in 1973) - another Japanese factory with a multicolored history first in jukebox and mechanical game repeat. It would not be till 1978 that we would see original development and a yearning for international recognition, (one of the first games seen in the West being 'Block Game' - linked to Konami's association to Leisure Japan Corp, also known as LEIJAC). Though achieving success in the West, Konami would get burnt even from their own kinsmen in trying to enter the Western market (the feud with SEGA over the licensing and ownership of the 1981 classic 'Frogger' would rage for years till a compromise was eventually agreed).


Konami would look for friendly faces in representing their hardware in the West, and would migrate to the Taito-engendered Centuri to represent the lion's share of their Western releases up until 1984. From that point on, Konami would invest heavily in a Western operation, with Konami Amusement of Europe (started in 1984) and in the US with its own Konami Amusement of America. But as the market fragmented, the Japanese executives lost trust in the myopia between sales expectations and reality - eventually closing Konami Amusement of America doors in 2003. 

Editor's Note - It would be interesting to remember during the period of Konami Amusement of America's presence in the Western market - especially near the end of the Noughties a major aspect of their business was the litigation and protection of the Konami successful properties in the West. Most famously in August 2000 undertaking considerable investment in defending the successful BEMANI 'Dance Dance Revolution' property from perceived Asian completion and going after software developers supporting these claimed infringers - with mixed success. This active royalties and IP protection would come to haunt Konami in the future.

Reverting to a relationship with agents and distributors in key territories (using a lone Japanese retained executive) - a relationship placed under the pressure with the failure of the licensing of the BEMANI properties in the West and the confusion regarding the license of 'Guitar Heroes'. Inevitably Konami consumer game executives in Germany and American would prove unable to steer Japanese amusement product placement; the lone Japanese-retained executive departing from Konami in 2010.


Konami Group is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary - with an Asian amusement business representing a healthy and profitable component of this grand corporation. Innovation driving the company has already built on their e-AMUSEMENT swipe-card platform by adding PARSLI, an e-wallet and e-payment infrastructure using mobile-phone and NFC operation. Linked to a brand new Medal Game platform KDE has become a firebrand in championing the opportunities for social amusement in the transitional market of Japan - releasing a hoard of products that could obviously shape Western application if applied.


At JAEPO'13 the latest sleek design and all-in-one music system of 'Dance Dance Revolution' for the 2013 Japanese trade was presented to strong interest, as the BEMANI franchise was given a reboot. Other new titles were displayed, many seeming to offer a tantalizing opportunity for Western distribution. But advice from 'friendly' Western distributors stated that the hardware / software translation, importing and licensing needs to suit their customer-base would not make this economical for US or EU sale! Also there is resentment held by some operators to the series after previous poor conversion attempted with the last in the series to come to the West would be hard to surmount.


While the void of KDE music games is partly filled by ANDAMIRO America and their latest 'Pump It Up' series, some operators have even taken to cannibalism to support their avid player-base. The free download rhythm and dance software 'StepMania' used in refurbished DDR cabinet able to now run the latest tunes - literally the operator base having to fend for themselves as the Japanese alternative is blocked from making Western landfall. It has to be remembered that BEMANI singlehandedly saved the late 1990's video amusement trade - a survival some may have resented? We now see an uncomfortable president where USA and EU amusement businesses actually block sale opportunities - as if 'Space Invaders' was blocked from sales in the West because certain route operators did not want its popularity impeding sales of their traditional mechanical titles!

Editor's Notes - The long awaited Stinger special feature on "where have all the Music Games gone" is still being compiled - we hope to have it ready for the end of the year, though we wait to see new developments. There are plans from Chinese developers to launch a new brand of Music Games that could replace the stalemate we currently have in the West over the import and operation of this popular genre. We also hope to put to bed the rumors regarding required royalty payments for the usage in amusement of a number of machines. Sources still speak of operators forwarding requests for remuneration from the respective music licensing boards to the distributors that sold them the machines - but with no success regarding any explanation on where they stand. A dirty secret many would prefer swept under the industry carpet, and explaining the cold shoulder the Stinger experienced in researching this far-reaching feature.

Breaking Stinger News - Underlining the relevance of this Report; as we went to the wire rumors were circulating that Konami Digital Entertainment (KDE) was testing the water regarding supporting Western amusement audiences. In a revolutionary development the company was claimed to be looking for customer input on whether they should release a 'Pro Evolution Soccer Arcade' machine in the West, with an online questionnaire posted incorporating an images in the KDE announcement of the 2007 cabinet (the last in the series to see a Western release). At this time details on this request for support was limited, but if proven to be an official approach, it would seem to underline the abandonment of distributor advice in planning a Western strategy.

Nintendo - (founded originally in 1889, the company entering amusement in 1973) - started as a toy and card game developer the company eventually migrated into the mechanical amusement. Nintendo would be one of the Japanese factories that would establish a proactive approach to placing their amusement content into the West - since selling 'Shooting Training' (their first video title) into the States in 1974, Nintendo knew they needed a dedicated American import presence to sidestep some of the "colorful" behavior of local distributors towards representing foreign content. Nintendo of America (NOA) was opened by the then corporation's Chief Executive's son-in-law in New York during 1979. This assimilation working hand in glove with the American market would bear fruit, even shaping gaming history, with the erasable arcade warehouse landlord for NOA (Mario Segale) being immortalized as the name of the corporation's mascot.


Nintendo's involvement with the US amusement trade soon dimmed in comparison to the investment made in the growing consumer game console scene. The Japanese giant has grown with its investment into the consumer game sector, its involvement in the amusement scene has curtailed to an occasional branding exercise or the involvement in unique partnerships such as the SEGA, NAMCO and Nintendo - 'TrioFroce' - architecture relationship, in 2005. Most recently Nintendo has been involved in licenses with Capcom and NAMCO to see Intellectual Properties placed into the Japanese Medal Game sector - or turned into racing games.


Launched at JAEPO'13, 'Mario Kart Arcade GP DX', on the latest arcade architecture, saw Nintendo executives shaking hands with their equivalent numbers from NAMCO Bandai Games on the trade show booth - marking Nintendo's biggest involvement in amusement in recent years. Sadly, however, where this predecessor to this title saw Western deployment, news is still limited about whether Japan will consider shipping the latest of the kiddie racing property to the Western market - no matter how much interest there would be to have a successor to the 2005 release. Sadly, Nintendo is another Japanese corporation with a muted celebration of their 40th anniversary of their entrance into the amusement business, deferring responsibility for amusement releases to their new partnership with NAMCO Bandai Games.

Editor's Notes - The involvement of Nintendo in the Western amusement sector after its heyday in arcades can be charted back to their investment in 1994 and the launch of Western developed titles 'Cruis'n USA' and 'Killer Instincts' - developed by Rare Studios - released jointly with Midway. These and other games were launched to promote the 64-bit technology employed in the Nintendo 64 (5th Gen) game console, given an arcade off shoot.


Jump forward to 2013, an in an interesting reversal of fortune, it was announced in the build-up to the E3 consumer game exhibition in Los Angeles in June 2013 that the 'Killer Instincts' brand will be revived as a new brawler for the Microsoft Xbox One to be launched this year - a total reboot of the game and graphics created to offer a true "arcade" beat-em-up for the 8th Gen console - seen as a make-or-break platform for the future of consumer game console sales. An early version of the new revived brawler was playable on a special arcade cabinet on the show floor - continuing to underline the provenance that video amusement can install on a consumer game property.

Regarding the other Japanese names that use to grace the Western amusement scene - the roll call is sparse. One such company whose popular titles have failed to make landfall outside of Japan recently is Capcom - (established as Capsule Computers Company in 1979 - changing its name to Capcom in 1983). The company developed their first original amusement title 'Little League' in 1983 for the mechanical steel ball sector, but the following year the companies true interest in video games was marked with the launch of their first video title 'Vulgus' (1984). From this start Capcom would become a powerhouse in video amusement titles heavily supporting the JAMMA-kit scene with their advance designs.


The company would create one of the giant brands of the video amusement scene in releasing 'Street Fighter II' in 1991 - a game that would be phenomenally successful and create its own hoard of emulations and rip-off titles. The Japanese company would see their amusement titles represented in the West through a select group of distributors - in the UK even deploying a Japanese executive to work alongside their distributor Electrocoin Sales. But by the 1990s this representation came to an end. Capcom would continue to invest in new video amusement development - but with their successful library of games, the company also invested in consumer game development. Eventually the amusement business would take a back seat to their more profitable console game releases.


The re-release of the 'Street Fighter' franchise came to Japanese arcades in 2008, but was sadly missed through traditional amusement sources in the West. However this does not mean that the new 'Street Fighter IV' did not make unofficial Western landfall. Developed by Capcom, but released on the Taito VIEWLIX platform in Japan, a number of independent operators in America and Europe sidestepped the conventional and obstructive distributor channels - that had advised Taito/Capcom that there was no interest for the brawler in the Western scene - and imported the game directly from Japan themselves. Sources speculate that over 1,000 units have been sold of the title in the West - fuelling questions into what is the reality in using traditional amusement business to get the latest releases to those that want it.


While Capcom has focused more and more of its resources towards consumer game - recently opening Beeline Interactive to develop and distribute mobile phone game apps. Capcom still has an amusement interest, not only through their Capcom Plaza amusement venue chain; the company also develops a range of medal games in their home market, and the occasional unique video title. In its 30th anniversary year the company recently launched at JAEPO'13 the video 'Winnie Angry Ghee Race'; players shaking the feet of a giant pig controller, steering their character on screen in a cartoon racing game. But without a Western amusement sales business Capcom has joined the trend to forget this once popular aspect of their international business - even during this anniversary year.

Breaking Stinger News - As if to again underline the relevance of this Report, as we went to the wire news broke that following a major reshuffle within Capcom that has seen the Senior Vice Presidents resignation, news was released that Capcom would be launching a new release in their popular franchise, with 'Ultra Street Fighter IV', and along with supporting the Gen-7 consoles, the game would be given an arcade outing. Following on from the previous agreement with Taito, the game will be launched for the NESiCAxLIVE (digital distribution platform) arcade units across Japan. Though announced as a Japanese only release, this could be a decision that is reversed if some of the aspects touched upon in this and the following reports come to pass.

We have to be mindful that this feature has just listed only six of those 'current' Japanese factories that injected so much revenue into the Western amusement scene in years gone by - but there were many more that drove the business and allowed this market to flourish. Companies such as Amstar Electronics, Atlus, Data East, Irem, Jaleco, Sammy, Tecmo, Toaplan, Romstar, Universal, SNK (that would be celebrating its 35th anniversary - having been acquired by Playmore), and a hoard of other Japanese independents that have been assimilated or fallen by the wayside.

Breaking Stinger News - Just as we went to the wire, it was revealed that two of the names from the past are in the news again. Atlus, famous for games such as 'Power Instinct' and 'Groove on Fight', had been acquired in 2006 by Index group. In June it was revealed that Index had considerable debts and had filed for civil rehabilitation proceedings as it faces bankruptcy. It is now expected that the assets of Atlus will now be sold to address this situation. It has to be remembered that much of the Atlus amusement facility business had been farmed into a new company (New Entertainment Wave) in 2009 - though details on its status are scarce.


The other news is more positive; the Japanese independent studio Tecmo, (founded in 1967 as Tehkan - changing its name to Tecmo in 1986), a famous developer of popular amusement titles in the 80's - but by 2002 it had abandoned amusement development merging with Koei in 2009. But in 2013 it was announced that the company had decided to return to amusement game development. In an agreement to have SEGA sell their titles on their amusement platform ('ALL.Net P-ras MULTI Ver. 2' digital distribution platform). Sources revealed that the 1999 fighting game series will be the first titles released; 'Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate: Arcade' will be distributed across 800 connected machines for Winter 2013.

These Japanese companies in many cases had representation in the West, sending precious evaluation JAMMA boards to agents in each territory, (JAMMA PCB's usually dipped in acrylic to negate copying of the ROM chips); Western agents that would make the trip to Japan and woo the respective corporation to trust them with representing them in the West. Flyers would be translated, and advice offered on how best to reposition (balance) the proposed game for the unique Western tastes. Over years the relationship has migrated from symbiotic to confrontational - the agent's suggestions proving less and less "on-the-money", rather than offering advice, has been seen as hindering (making excuses why they can no longer buy new releases).


One source stated that the biggest killer of independent Japanese amusement opportunity was not a downturn in player / audience interest, but more the pressure from Western agents to try and squeeze the Japanese developers to take on more of the shipping and placement expenses, changing the business to fit the agents' needs rather than the markets' needs. Stifling games that did not fit the comfortable business model that traditional distributors and their 'Lepidophagy'-style relationship with route and street operators, compromising their claimed representation of Japanese licensed content. The recent departure of Konami and Taito from representing their products into the West currently is blamed on this very situation.


But while the Japanese amusement trade has become more insular, focusing on selling mainly to the home islands, there is another emerging source of video amusement content that has used this current change in the business model to take a lead. The Asian Dragons (developing economies of Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong (China)) now gaining credence as a viable source of strong video content - rather than previous accusations as being a hotbed of copying.

Editor's Note - In compiling this feature, we gathered some information that pointed to those Western amusement manufacturers that managed to buck the tide and license their games into Japan! Currently Raw Thrills has a relationship with NAMCO Bandai Games that has seen their games represented through the Japanese factories satellite distribution operation. Likewise independent UK based development studio Gamewax has a wide-ranging relationship with key factories (many of which executives at Gamewax have worked for).


But turning to the past, other than Atari managing to pull aside the 'Bamboo Curtain', there is one surprising European amusement developers that actually struck success to see their amusement developments licensed into Japan was Gaelco (established 1985). The Spanish developer started to create independent PCB games in 1991 (finding true international success with 'World Rally' in 1993); but it was with their investment in developing their own CGi hardware and their first game on it 'Speed UP' (1996) that the Japanese amusement trade (in particularly NAMCO) took interest and licensed their games. Four licensed titles that ended with 'Tokyo Cop' (2003) that suffered a difficult birth and inevitably pulled down the Spanish developer. The company still exists, though it is only selling their 'Radikal Darts' online soft-top darts system.

The Stinger Report reveals this new market in the second part of this feature - following shortly.


Next Stinger Report Issue Arrives :

30th of July 2013