Data East

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Data East Corporation
Industry Computer and video game industry
Fate Bankruptcy
Founded April 20, 1976
Founder Tetsuo Fukuda
Defunct 2003
Headquarters Suginami, Tokyo, Japan
Products List of games released by Data East
Slogan We've got it all

Data East Corporation (株式会社データイースト Dēta Īsuto Kabushikigaisha?) also abbreviated as DECO, was a Japanese video game developer and publisher. The company was in operation from 1976 to 2003, when it declared bankruptcy. Their main headquarters were located in Suginami, Tokyo,[1] The American subsidiary, Data East USA, had been headquartered in San Jose, California.[2]


Data East was founded by Tetsuo Fukuda (福田 哲夫 Fukuda Tetsuo?) on April 20, 1976 [3] as an electronic engineering company which focused on integrating interchangeable tapes inside arcade game devices, allowing video games operators to replace a game from a machine without having to replace the cabinet itself. Realizing the money that could be made within the interactive content, Data East began developing arcade video games in 1978 starting with their first arcade game, Super Break, while they established a U.S division in 1979, after most of their chief competitors like Sega and Taito had already established a market presence. During that same year, Data East produced and released their first original video arcade game, Astro Fighter, a shoot 'em up later distributed overseas by Sega / Gremlin. In 1981, three staff members of Data East founded Technōs Japan, who then supported Data East for a while before becoming completely independent. While making games, Data East released a series of interchangeable systems compatible with their arcade games, notably the DECO Cassette System and the Multi Conversion Kit, but these products soon became infamous among their users due to their numerous technical problems. By 1985 Data East had shifted away from interchangeability to concentrate themselves on video games only.

Data East proved to be one of the more successful and long-lasting companies in the business, surviving the video game crash of 1983 in reasonably good shape and going on to release dozens of games for both arcade and home console systems over the next two decades. Some of their most famous coin-op arcade games from their 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. Their most successful licensed games included Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, Kung Fu Master and Vigilante, all licensed from Irem, and Commando, licensed from Capcom. They had a brief stint as a Neo-Geo arcade licensee in the mid-1990s, starting with Spinmaster.

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 their 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.[4] By the end of the 1990s, the company's American division, Data East USA, had been liquidated and Data East had ceased to exist outside Japan.

Unable to escape their mounting financial problems, Data East filed for reorganization in 1999 and stopped making video games. For the following three and a half years, Data East sold negative ion generators[5] and licensed some of their old games to other companies; all of this in hope of collecting enough money to be able to make video games again and return to the competition. Nonetheless, the company's restructuring efforts were not enough to put back the financial problems brought by the 1990s and in April 2003, Data East filed for bankruptcy and were 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.[3]

Most of Data East's intellectual properties were acquired in February 2004 by G-Mode, a Japanese mobile game content provider.[6] However some of Data East's assets, including Karnov,[7] Chelnov,[8] the Vapor Trail trilogy[9] and the Glory of Heracles series are owned by Paon Corporation instead of G-Mode. Likewise, G-Mode does not own rights to the Metal Max series and the Tantei Jingūji Saburō series which were retained by Crea-Tech and WorkJam respectively. Ownership rights are unknown for some of the DECO Cassette games as well as for games that were created from licensed properties (such as Robocop and Captain America and the Avengers).

In September 2009, Majesco Entertainment has announced that it would release a collection of arcade games from Data East called Data East Arcade Classics for the Wii console under license from G-Mode.


For a list of video and pinball games released by Data East, see List of games released by Data East.

Related companies[edit]

  • Gamadelic - Sound team of Data East.
  • Technōs Japan - Established by an independent company's managing director Kunio Taki and a few other former Data East employees. After filing for bankruptcy, they founded its successor Million Co..
    • Givro - Formed by former Technōs Japan employees.
    • Avit - Another formed by former Technōs Japan employees.
  • Idea Factory - Another company established by Data East's former employees.
  • TAD Corporation - Founded by Tadashi "TAD" Yokoyama and a few other former employees of Data East. Best known for their first two video games Cabal and Toki.
    • Use Co., Ltd. - Akira Sakuma and Takashi Nishizawa, both former programmers with Data East and TAD, went to work for Use after TAD was dissolved in 1992.
    • Mitchell Corporation - Used Data East hardware for arcade games and has former TAD Corporation employees.
  • Kuusoukagaku Corporation - A splinter of Data East. Today, the company deals exclusively with mobile gaming.
  • Wood Place - A Japanese company associated with Data East, best known for licensing arcade titles like Ring King and Fire Trap.
  • Work Jam - Known for owning the development rights to the Jake Hunter series, which are still developing the same series. In addition, the company's former employees have enrolled.
  • Scitron Label - Published video game soundtrack albums of several video games, including Data East's titles.
  • G-Mode - A mobile content management company who obtained and currently holds the rights to a vast majority of Data East's video game library, which includes the BurgerTime, Joe & Mac, and Magical Drop franchises.
  • Paon - Formed by former Data East employees, who then bought the rights to a smaller portion of Data East's library than G-mode, which includes Karnov, Chelnov, High Seas Havoc, the Glory of Heracles franchise and the Kuuga trilogy.
  • Cattle Call - Another company founded by former Data East employees. Also responsible for the development of Metal Max 2: Reloaded and Metal Max 3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "データイースト." Data East. December 8, 2002. Retrieved on October 20, 2009.
  2. ^ Compute, Volume 12, Issues 1-5. Small System Services, 1990. 52. Retrieved from Google Books on May 17, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Data East goes bankrupt - WonderSwan News at GameSpot
  4. ^ "Sega Buys Game Development, Pinball Groups". GamePro (65) (IDG). December 1994. p. 284. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Smith, David. "G-Mode Buys Up Data East Catalog", February 2004. [2]
  7. ^ "Data East History - DATA EAST GAMES". G-Mode. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  8. ^ "チェルノブ : Wii(R) バーチャルコンソール メガドライブ 公式サイト". SEGA of Japan. September 11, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  9. ^ Data East Retro Game Music Collection music album.

External links[edit]