Data East Corporation (データイースト株式会社, Dēta Īsuto kabushiki gaisha), also abbreviated as DECO, was a Japanese video game and electronic engineering company. The company was in operation from 1976 to 2003, and released 150 video game titles. Its main headquarters were located in Suginami, Tokyo. The American subsidiary, Data East USA, was headquartered in San Jose, California.
|Dēta Īsuto kabushiki gaisha|
|Industry||Video games, engineering|
|Founded||April 20, 1976|
|Defunct||June 25, 2003|
|Headquarters||Suginami, Tokyo, Japan|
|Products||List of games released by Data East|
|Total equity||¥282.5 million (April 2001) |
|Subsidiaries||Data East USA, inc. |
Data East Pinball inc.
Data East was founded on April 20, 1976, by Tokai University alumnus Tetsuo Fukuda. Data East developed and released in July 1977 its first arcade game Jack Lot, a medal game based on Blackjack for business use. This was followed in January 1978 by Super Break which was its first actual video game. More than 15 arcade games were released by Data East in the 1970s.
Data East established a U.S. division in 1979, after its chief competitors Sega and Taito had already established a market presence. In 1980, Data East published Astro Fighter which became its first major arcade title. While making games, Data East released a series of interchangeable systems compatible with its arcade games, notably the DECO Cassette System which soon became infamous among users due to technical problems. Data East dropped the DECO Cassette by 1985.
In 1981, three staff members of Data East founded Technōs Japan, who then supported Data East for a while before becoming completely independent.
Data East continued to release arcade video games over the next 15 years following the video game crash of 1983. Some of its most famous coin-op arcade games from its 1980s heyday included Karate Champ, Heavy Barrel, BurgerTime, Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja, Sly Spy, RoboCop, Bump 'n' Jump, Trio The Punch – Never Forget Me..., Karnov and Atomic Runner Chelnov. Karate Champ was the first successful fighting game, due to being one of the most influential to modern fighting game standards. It was also the subject of the litigation Data East USA, Inc. v. Epyx, Inc., in which Data East alleged that Epyx's International Karate infringed the copyright in Karate Champ.
Data East also purchased licenses to manufacture and sell arcade games created by other companies. Some of its licensed games included Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, Kung Fu Master and Vigilante, all licensed from Irem, and Commando, licensed from Capcom. It had a brief stint as a Neo-Geo arcade licensee in the mid-1990s, starting with Spinmaster.
Data East entered the video game console market in 1986 with the release of B-Wings for the Famicom. Although this was the first title that Data East published for a console, it wasn't the first game the company developed for the home market as it had earlier designed the Famicom ports of BurgerTime and Tag Team Wrestling; both of which were programmed by Sakata SAS Co., Ltd and released by Namco.  In North America, the subsidiary Data East USA was the first third-party company to release video games for the NES. Data East would become a licensee for several home systems, notably the Famicom/NES (1986), PC Engine (1988), Game Boy (1990), Mega Drive (1991), Super Nintendo (1991), Neo Geo (1993), Sega Saturn (1995), PlayStation (1996), WonderSwan (1999) and NeoGeo Pocket Color (1999). Several of Data East's video games series, such as Tantei Jingūji Saburō, Glory of Hercules and Metal Max, were created specifically for home consoles.
Data East also made pinball machines from 1987 through 1994, and included innovations such as the first pinball to have stereo sound (Laser War), the first usage of a small dot matrix display in Checkpoint along with the first usage of a big DMD (192x64) in Maverick. In designing pinball machines they showed a strong preference for using high-profile (but expensive) licensed properties, rather than creating totally original machines, which did not help the financial difficulties the company began experiencing from 1990 on. Some of the properties that Data East licensed for its pinball machines included Guns N' Roses, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Batman, RoboCop, The Simpsons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Data East is the only company that manufactured custom pinball games (e.g. for Aaron Spelling, the movie Richie Rich, or Michael Jordan), though these were basically mods of existing or soon to be released pinball machines (e.g. Lethal Weapon 3). The pinball division was created in 1985 by purchasing the pinball division of Stern Electronics and its factory and assets. Amidst plummeting sales across the entire pinball market, Data East chose to exit the pinball business and sold the factory to Sega in 1994. At the time of the buyout by Sega, Data East Pinball was the world's second-largest pinball manufacturer, holding 25 percent of the market. Although all of Data East's pinball games were developed in the United States, several were released in Japan by the parent company.
Although video games represented the majority of the company's revenue, Data East had always been involved in engineering. Outside of video games, Data East produced image transmission equipment, data communication adapters for satellite phones from NTT DoCoMo, and developed electrocardiogram equipment for ambulances. According to the company's website, its Datafax product, released in 1983, was the world's first portable fax machine.
By the end of the 1990s, the company's American division, Data East USA, was liquidated. No official announcement of this was made; instead, calls to Data East USA's offices were greeted with a prerecorded message from marketing manager Jay Malpas stating that the company had closed its doors before Christmas 1996. Their final releases were Defcon 5 and Creature Shock: Special Edition. The Japanese parent company itself withdrew entirely from the arcade industry in 1998 and had accumulated a debt estimated at 3.3 billion yen. Data East filed for reorganization in 1999 and stopped making video games altogether. All customer support pertaining to video games was halted in March 2000. For the following three years, Data East sold negative ion generators, continued to develop compatible devices for NTT DoCoMo phones and licensed some of its old video games to other companies. Nonetheless, the company's restructuring efforts were not enough to put back the financial problems brought by the 1990s. Consequently, in April 2003, Data East filed for bankruptcy and was finally declared bankrupt by a Tokyo district court on June 25, 2003. The news was released to the public two weeks later, on July 8.
Most of Data East's video game library was acquired in February 2004 by G-Mode, a Japanese mobile game content provider. G-Mode also owns the Data East trademark.  However, some games are owned by Paon Corporation instead of G-Mode, notably Karnov, Chelnov, Windjammers, the Glory of Heracles series and the Kuuga trilogy. Likewise, the rights to the series Metal Max and Jake Hunter currently are the properties of Kadokawa Games and Arc System Works, respectively. The RoboCop titles related to Data East were acquired by D4 Enterprise in September 2010. The other properties of Data East were transferred to Tactron Corporation, the asset management company of the Fukuda family. Tactron sued Nintendo twice during the 2000s decade for patent infringement, but both cases were dismissed.
As of February 2014, Tetsuo Fukuda (aged 74) is the chairman of Uriima, a small Japanese developer of software applications for medical professionals.
- For a list of video and pinball games released by Data East, see List of games released by Data East.
|Arc System Works||Video game development and publishing.||Acquired the rights to the Jake Hunter series from WorkJam, acquired all the Technōs Japan assets from Million Corp.|||
|Avit||Video game development.||Formed by former Technōs Japan employees.|
|Crea-Tech||Video game development.||Created the Metal Max series with Data East.|||
|D4 Enterprise||Video game publishing.||Acquired the rights to the Robocop games published by Data East on the arcades, FC/NES and IBM PC (DOS).|||
|Gamadelic||Musicians.||The sound team of Data East.|
|Givro||Video game development.||Formed by former Technōs Japan employees.|
|G-Mode||Mobile software management.||Acquired the majority of Data East's intellectual properties including: BurgerTime, Joe & Mac, and Magical Drop franchises. Acquired by Marvelous in 2015.|||
|Idea Factory||Video game development and publishing.||Established by former Data East employees.|
|Kadokawa Games||Video game publishing.||Acquired the rights to the Metal Max from Crea-Tech.|
|Marvelous||Video game development and publishing.||Acquired G-Mode and the majority of Data East's intellectual properties including: BurgerTime, Joe & Mac, and Magical Drop franchises. Its 20% stake was acquired by Tencent in May 2020.|
|Mitchell Corporation||Video game development.||Used Data East hardware for arcade games.|
|Paon||Video game publishing.||The second largest owner of the Data East library after G-Mode. Acquired the rights to Karnov, Chelnov, Windjammers, Glory of Heracles and Kuuga franchises.|||
|Scitron Label||Japanese record label.||Publisher of Data East's video game soundtracks.|
|SNK||Video game development and publishing.||Co-publisher and co-distributor of Technōs Japan's and some Data East's video game titles for Neo Geo platform.|
|Stern Pinball||Pinball development and manufacturing.||Founded by Gary Stern, who previously ran Data East pinball. Owns the rights to Data East and Sega pinball designs.|
|TAD Corporation||Arcade video game development.||Founded by Tadashi "TAD" Yokoyama and a few other former employees of Data East.|
|Technōs Japan||Video game development and publishing.||Established by Kunio Taki and other former Data East employees. All assets of Technōs Japan are currently owned by Arc System Works.|||
|Tencent Games||Video game development and publishing.||Acquired 20% stake in Marvelous which own G-Mode and the majority of Data East's intellectual properties including: BurgerTime, Joe & Mac, and Magical Drop franchises.|
|Toaplan||Video game development and publishing.||Creating Performan and Jongkyō with Data East.|
|Wood Place||Arcade video game publishing.||Licensed arcade titles like Ring King and Fire Trap.|
|WorkJam||Video game publishing.||Acquired the rights to the Jake Hunter series before handing the rights over to Arc System Works. In addition, former Data East employees work for WorkJam.|||
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