Sente Technologies

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Sente Technologies
Industry Video arcade games
Fate Bankuptcy
Founded 1982
Defunct 1988
Headquarters Originally Milpitas, California,[1] later Sunnyvale, California[2], United States
Key people
Roger Hector (co-founder), Howard Delman (co-founder) and Ed Rotberg (co-founder), Nolan Bushnell (chairman), Owen Rubin (game designer)
Products Snake Pit,[3] Stocker, Hat Trick, Street Football

Sente Technologies (also known as Bally Sente, Inc.) was an arcade game developer. Founded as Videa in 1982 by several ex-Atari employees, the company was bought by Nolan Bushnell and made a division of his Pizza Time Theatre company in 1983. In 1984 the division was acquired by Bally Midway who continued to operate it until closing it down in 1988. The name Sente, like Atari, is another reference to Bushnell's favorite game, Go and means "having the initiative."

Videa[edit]

Videa developed their first games, Gridlee (a.k.a. Pogoz, an arcade game), Lasercade (for the Atari 2600) and Atom Smasher (a.k.a. Meltdown, also for the Atari 2600) in 1982 with the intent of entering both the arcade and home console market in 1983. An attempt was made to get Gottlieb to distribute Gridlee[4] and Fox to release Lasercade and Atom Smasher (also known as Meltdown) but all three failed to come to market.[5] The console market crashed in Christmas of 1983 and the prototype Gridlee machine did poorly out on its field test so Gottlieb and Fox both passed on their respective deals.

Shortly thereafter Videa was acquired by Nolan Bushnell's Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatres company. Bushnell had left Atari (a company he co-founded) in 1978 and was required to sign a non-competitive agreement to keep him out of the video game business for several years.[6] He hoped to use Videa as a way to re-enter the arcade game market quickly without having to start a company from the ground up since his agreement was set to expire in late 1983. The intent to acquire Videa for $2.2 million was published in January 1983 and Sente Technologies was officially founded on October 1, 1983.[7]

Although Sente did not officially exist until October, Atari sued Bushnell anyway, claiming his April purchase of the company broke their non-compete agreement. The suit was quickly put aside when Bushnell arranged a licensing deal with Atari, granting them exclusive rights to home releases of Sente's arcade games.[8]

Now a division of Pizza Time Theatres, they further developed the Gridlee prototype hardware to create the Sente Arcade Computer I and II systems. The SAC-I was novel for being one of the first arcade systems to use interchangeable "cartridges" (really just bare PCBs with finger holes cut into them for easy removal) and quick swap control panels inside a generic cabinet to allow operators to quickly and cheaply convert arcades from one game to another. This would become common practice some years later but was rare for 1984. Three options were available to operators: A large metal and plastic dedicated cabinet,[9] a more standard wooden dedicated cabinet,[10] and a conversion kit for existing machines.[11] Some titles were also offered in cocktail cabinets but they don't appear to have been available for all titles.

Sente's first game, Snake Pit was demonstrated in December 1983 and the SAC-II system and Shrike Avenger was previewed at the same event. Unfortunately the Pizza Time Theatre chain was suffering from financial problems because of its recent expansion and acquisitions phase. After operating Sente Technologies for less than five months Pizza Time Theatre Inc. filed for bankruptcy and the Sente division was put up for sale. Bally Manufacturing purchased the division for $3.9 million in May 1984 and formed Bally Sente.

Bally Sente[edit]

Releasing their first games in 1984 they produced a number of titles that year, including: Snake Pit,[3] Stocker, several editions of Trivial Pursuit and Hat Trick, their best selling title. Bally Sente would eventually release twenty one games for the SAC-I system between 1984 and 1987 and developed at least one title, Shrike Avenger, for the SAC-II system. Sente's games were never huge sellers and releases slowed down considerably as the years passed. Releasing twelve games in 1984 their numbers dropped to less than half that in 1985 (only two games) and picked up slightly in 1986 (five games). Only two saw release in 1987, this proved to be the last year Bally Sente completed any titles.

Last projects[edit]

The premier SAC-II game, Shrike Avenger, had been in development for three years but a complete game was still months away. Bally Sente replaced the original developer with Owen Rubin and gave him six weeks to make a playable game out of the unfinished prototype. While the cabinet and motion control computer were complete and in-game graphics were nearly done the game itself was unfinished. Rubin quickly developed a playable "Last Starfigher" trainer type flight simulator and the game was put out on field tests. The game used a standard SAC-1 system connected to a powerful Motorola 68000 based motion control computer for motion feedback through the motorized environmental flight simulator cabinet. It earned very well on field tests but had some major problems. Patrons complained of dizziness (some even became ill), the motors were prone to burning out and one units safety system failed, tipping the unit over, dumping a patron and almost crushing them. Bally deemed the SAC-2 system too expensive to produce (estimated to be $10k a unit in 1986 dollars, easily five times a typical games price) and a possible liability so the project was canceled.[12]

Sente's last project was the Sente Super System,[13] also known as SAC-III. Based around a Commodore Amiga 500 computer the system was intended to provide a powerful and cheap way for operators to upgrade existing arcades to more modern hardware but was also planned to be sold as stand alone units. Moonquake was the premier title for the system but for unknown reasons the Sente Super System was canceled and it never went into full production. Bally Sente folded up soon after and all assets were transferred to Bally's Midway division in 1988, Bally Sente filed for bankruptcy. Sente was known for producing a rather odd assortment of games over its tenure as well as using some unique control schemes. In addition some of the company's games featured "missing children" ads in their attract modes, an uncommon feature in arcade games.

Games developed by Sente[edit]

  • Chicken Shift
  • Euro Stocker (prototype)[14]
  • Gimme A Break
  • Goalie Ghost
  • Grudge Match (prototype)
  • Hat Trick
  • Mini Golf
  • Moonquake (Sente Super System prototype)[14]
  • Name that Tune
  • Night Stocker
  • Off the Wall
  • Rescue Raider
  • Shrike Avenger (SAC-II prototype)[15]
  • Snacks'n Jaxson
  • Snake Pit
  • Spiker
  • Stocker
  • Stompin'
  • Street Football
  • Team Hat Trick (prototype)[14]
  • Toggle
  • Trick Shot (prototype)[14]
  • Trivial Pursuit (All Sports Edition)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Baby Boomer Edition)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Genus I)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Genus II)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Young Player's Edition)

References[edit]