ASCII Corporation

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ASCII Corporation
SVG ASCII logo.svg
Parent companyKadokawa Corporation
StatusFolded into ASCII Media Works
Founded1977; 43 years ago (1977)
FounderKazuhiko Nishi
Keiichiro Tsukamoto
SuccessorASCII Media Works, Agetec, and Enterbrain
Country of originJapan
Headquarters locationChiyoda, Tokyo
Key peopleKiyoshi Takano, President
Publication typesComputer magazines, Video games
No. of employees197 (as of March 31, 2006)

ASCII Corporation (株式会社アスキー, Kabushiki kaisha Asukī) was a publishing company based in Tokyo, Japan. It became a subsidiary of Kadokawa Group Holdings in 2004, and merged with another Kadokawa subsidiary MediaWorks on April 1, 2008, and became ASCII Media Works.[1][2] The company published Monthly ASCII as the main publication.


1977–1990: Founding and first projects[edit]

ASCII was founded in 1977 by Kazuhiko Nishi and Keiichiro Tsukamoto. Originally a publisher of a magazine with the same name ASCII, talks between Bill Gates and Nishi led to a creation of Microsoft's first overseas sales office, ASCII Microsoft, in 1979.[3][4] In 1980, ASCII made 1.2 billion yen of sales from licensing Microsoft BASIC. It was 40 percent of Microsoft's sales, and Nishi became Microsoft's Vice President of Sales for Far East.[5] In 1983, ASCII and Microsoft introduced MSX. Nishi was also known for his role in marketing the MSX in 1983, an 8-bit standard computer well known in the former USSR and Japan. In 1984, ASCII engaged itself in semiconductor business, followed by a further expansion into commercial online service in 1985 under the brand of ASCII-NET. As the popularity of home video game systems soared in the 1980s, ASCII became active in the development and publishing of software and peripherals for popular consoles such as the Family Computer and Mega Drive. After Microsoft's public stock offering in 1986, Microsoft founded its own Japanese subsidiary, Microsoft Kabushiki Kaisha (MSKK), and dissolved partnership with ASCII.[3] At around the same time, the company was also obliged to reform itself as a result of its aggressive diversification in the first half of the 1980s.[6] The company went public in 1989.

1989–2000: Satellites and later projects[edit]

ASCII's revenue in its fiscal year ending March 1996 was 56 billion yen, broken down by sectors: Publication (52.5% or 27.0 billion yen), Game entertainment (27.8% or 14.3 billion yen), Systems & semiconductors (10.8% or 6 billion yen) and others.[6] Despite its struggles to remain focused on its core businesses, the company continued to suffer from accumulated debts, until an arrangement was set up that CSK Corporation execute a major investment into ASCII in 1997.[7]

In the mid-90s, ASCII acquired the company Something Good, and renamed it to ASCII Something Good, through which they developed 3 Sega Saturn Games: AI Shougi (1995), AI Igo (1997), AI Shougi 2 (1998).

ASCII had become popular in the software market that it branched out and created an American satellite in 1991 known as ASCII Entertainment. To focus on supporting the interactive entertainment channel in America, startup company Agetec (for "Ascii Game Entertainment TEChnology") was spun off as an independent corporation in 1998 and later became a fully independent publisher one year later. Co-founder Tsukamoto had left ASCII to create a company of his own in 1992, named Impress.[8]

2000–2008: Ownership changes and dissolution[edit]

On November 26, 2001 CSK Corporation and Unison Capital Partners L.P. announced the approval of transferring the control of its subsidiary ASCII to Unison Capital Partners L.P., effective on 2002-03-30, as part of the strategy to focus the CSK's group operations on B2B businesses.[9][10] The transfer was approved on December 21, 2001.[11] As a part of deal, ASCII's outstanding debt owed to CSK was forgiven, and under Unison's control, the ASCII's Enterbrain and IT publishing divisions would maintain autonomy, while ASCII was restructured to concentrate on PC and IT publishing businesses.

On May 28, 2002, Unison Media Partners announced ASCII would become its fully owned subsidiary of via share exchange, and ASCII would be delisted, effective on October 1, 2002.[12] On November 18, 2002, the Astroarts subsidiary was renamed to ASCII, while ASCII was renamed to MediaLeaves.[13] The former Astroarts subsidiary would inherit the publishing business of the former ASCII. On January 29, 2004, Unison Capital Partners, L.P. announced the sale of ASCII's parent company MediaLeaves to Kadokawa Group Holdings, to be completed on 2004-03.[14][15]

On September 27, 2007, Kadokawa Group Holdings announced the merger between subsidiaries MediaWorks and ASCII under the name ASCII Media Works, effective on April 1, 2008.[1][2] The merger was approved in 2008.[16] On January 10, 2010, the formerly named ASCII company MediaLeaves was merged into Enterbrain, dissolving the last of the ASCII entity.[17]



MSX is a standardized home computer architecture, announced by Microsoft and ASCII on June 16, 1983.[18][19] It was conceived and marketed by Kazuhiko Nishi, then vice-president at Microsoft and director at ASCII Corporation. Nishi conceived the project as an attempt to create unified standards among various home computing system manufacturers of the period.[20][21] MSX systems were popular in Japan and several other countries. It is difficult to determine how many MSX computers were sold worldwide, but eventually 5 million MSX-based units were sold in Japan alone. Despite Microsoft's involvement, few MSX-based machines were released in the United States.[22] Before the great success of Nintendo's Family Computer, MSX was the platform for which major Japanese game studios such as Konami and Hudson Soft produced video games. The Metal Gear series, for example, was first written for MSX hardware.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 子会社の合併に関するお知らせ (PDF) (in Japanese). Kadokawa Group Holdings. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  2. ^ a b "Kadokawa Group to Merge ASCII, MediaWorks Subsidiaries". Anime News Network. 2007-10-02. Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
  3. ^ a b Allan, Roy A. (2001). A History of the Personal Computer. Allan Publishing. pp. 31, 65. ISBN 0-9689108-0-7.
  4. ^ Quote from Bill Gates' The Road Ahead, found in Lessem, Ronnie (1998). Management development through cultural diversity. Routledge. pp. 160–161. ISBN 0-415-17875-4.
  5. ^ コンピュータ・ニュース社, ed. (1988). "「パソコン産業史」年表". 100万人の謎を解く ザ・PCの系譜 (in Japanese). コンピュータ・ニュース社. p. 45. ISBN 4-8061-0316-0.
  6. ^ a b Toda, Satoru (戸田覚) (1997). A quick map to Information and Telecommunications makrket (情報・通信業界早わかりマップ). Kō Shobō (こう書房). pp. 130–135. ISBN 4-7696-0606-0.
  7. ^ "Ascii to join CSK group". The Japan Times. Dec 25, 1997. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  8. ^ Impress Holdings website Archived February 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "CSK Corporation to Transfer ASCII to Unison Capital Partners L.P." CSK. 2001-11-26. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  10. ^ "アスキーの経営権取得に関する基本合意書締結について" (PDF). 2001-11-26.
  11. ^ "CSK Corporation Formalizes Contract to Transfer ASCII to Unison Capital Partners L.P." CSK. 2001-12-21. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008.
  12. ^ "株式会社アスキーとの株式交換契約締結について" (PDF). Unison. 2002-05-28.
  13. ^ "アスキーが社名変更". 2002-11-18.
  14. ^ "株式会社メディアリーヴス株式の公開買付への応募について" (PDF). Unison. 2004-01-29.
  15. ^ "Kadokawa buys ASCII (アスキー、角川が買収へ)". IT Media, Inc. (in Japanese). 2004-01-29. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  16. ^ 子会社の合併に関する経過のお知らせ (PDF) (in Japanese). Kadokawa Group Holdings. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  17. ^ "MediaLeaves, Inc. announcement" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on October 28, 2010.
  18. ^ Laing, Gordon (2004). Digital Retro: The Evolution and Design of the Personal Computer. Ilex Press.
  19. ^ "ASCII Express : 新しいホームパーソナルコンピュータ仕様 MSX". ASCII. ASCII. 7 (8). 1983. ISSN 0287-9506.
  20. ^ "MSX: The Japanese are coming! The Japanese are coming!". The Register. June 27, 2013.
  21. ^ Kazuhiko Nishi - Reference.
  22. ^ Faceoff: will MSX be a success in the United States.
  23. ^ "Kojima Productions". Retrieved 2011-06-22.

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