Tengen (company)

Tengen (company)

Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = Tengen
fate= Shut down by Time Warner Interactive
foundation = 1987
defunct = 1993
location = Milpitas, California
key_people =
industry = Console video games
products =
num_employees =
parent = Atari Games (1984-2003)
subsid =

Tengen was a video-game publisher and developer that was created by arcade game manufacturer Atari Games. Atari had been split into two distinct companies. Atari Corporation was responsible for computer and console games and hardware and owned the rights to the Atari brand for these domains. Atari Games was formed from Atari's arcade division, and were able to use the Atari name on arcade releases but not on console or computer games. When Atari Games wanted to enter the console-game market, it needed to create a new label that did not use the Atari name. The new subsidiary was dubbed Tengen, which in the Japanese game Go refers to the central point of the board (the word "Atari" comes from the same game).

Tengen unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with Nintendo for a less restrictive license (Nintendo restricted their licensees to releasing only five games per year, and required their games to be NES-exclusive for two years). Nintendo was not interested, so Tengen agreed to its standard license in December 1987. In 1988, Tengen released its first (and only) three cartridges licensed through Nintendo—"RBI Baseball", "Pac-Man" and "Gauntlet". Meanwhile, Tengen secretly worked to bypass Nintendo's lock-out chip called 10NES that gave it control over which games were published for the NES. While numerous manufacturers managed to override this chip by zapping it with a voltage spike, Tengen engineers feared this could potentially damage NES consoles and expose them to unnecessary liability. Instead the company chose to reverse engineer the chip and decipher the code required to unlock it. However, the engineers were unable to do so, and the launch date for its first batch of games was rapidly approaching.

In desperation, Tengen turned to the United States Copyright Office. Its lawyers contacted the government office to request a copy of the Nintendo lock-out program, claiming that the company needed it for potential litigation against Nintendo. Once obtained, it used the program to create its own chip that would unlock the NES. When Tengen launched the unlicensed versions of its games, Nintendo immediately sued Tengen for copyright and patent infringement. In the initial phases of trial, the court sided with Nintendo, but the sides settled before the matter was fully resolved.

Tengen faced another court challenge with Nintendo in 1989 in copyright controversy over "Tetris". Tengen lost this suit as well and was forced to recall what was estimated to be hundreds of thousands of unsold cartridges (having sold only about 50,000). (See "Tetris" for more.) [ cite web |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE2DD1539F931A15755C0A96F948260 |title= COMPANY NEWS; Atari Is Blocked From Selling Game |publisher=nytimes.com |date=June 22, 1989 ]

Despite its problems with Nintendo, Tengen went on to produce games for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, Sega CD, Atari Lynx, and NEC Turbo Grafx-16. The company also published games for home computers such as the Amiga and the Atari ST. It was best-known for its ports of popular Atari arcade games, including "Klax", "Hard Drivin'", "STUN Runner", and "Paperboy", although they published many other titles as well. In 1993, after Time Warner bought a controlling stake in Atari Games, the Tengen name was discontinued and home games were now released under the Time Warner Interactive (TWI) brand.

NES games

This is a list of the unlicensed games made by Tengen for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Three games were manufactured as both licensed and unlicensed, as indicated below.

Tengen's unlicensed NES game cartridges do not come in the universally recognizable semi-square grey shape regular Nintendo licensed games come in, but instead are rounded and matte-black, more resembling the original Atari cartridges.

* "After Burner" (released as a licensed game by Sunsoft in Japan)
* "Alien Syndrome" (released as a licensed game by Sunsoft in Japan)
* "Fantasy Zone" (released as a licensed game by Sunsoft in Japan)
* "Gauntlet" (was both licensed and unlicensed)
* "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (had a licensed version by Mindscape)
* "Klax"
* "Ms. Pac-Man" (unrelated to the later licensed port by Namco)
* "Pac-Man" (released as a licensed game by Namco in Japan. A licensed version was later released in North America by Namco)
* "Pac-Mania" (port developed by Namco, but unreleased in Japan)
* "RBI Baseball" (released as "Pro Yakyū Family Stadium" in Japan by Namco; was released in both licensed and unlicensed formats, in North America)
* "RBI Baseball 2" (the sequels are unrelated to the "Family Stadium" in Japan)
* "RBI Baseball 3"
* "Road Runner"
* "Rolling Thunder" (released as a licensed game by Namco in Japan)
* "Shinobi"
* "Skull & Crossbones"
* "Super Sprint"
* ""
* "Toobin"
* "Vindicators"


External links

* [http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/openlaw/DVD/cases/atarivnintendo.html Atari Games Corp. v. Nintendo of America, Inc. (from Harvard's Openlaw site)]
* [http://www.nesplayer.com/features/lawsuits/tengen.htm NES Player's overview of Tengen v. Nintendo]
* [http://www.mobygames.com/company/tengen "Tengen"] profile on MobyGames
* [http://www.1up.com/do/sortIndex?pb=1001775 Tengen games on 1up.com]

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