Sente Technologies

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Sente Technologies
IndustryVideo arcade games
Founded1982; 37 years ago (1982) (as Videa)
Defunct1988 (1988)
Key people
Roger Hector (co-founder)
Howard Delman (co-founder)
Ed Rotberg (co-founder)
Nolan Bushnell (chairman)
Owen Rubin (game designer)
Dona Bailey (game programmer)[3]
ProductsSnake Pit,[4] Stocker, Hat Trick, Street Football
OwnerMidway Games Edit this on Wikidata
ParentMidway Games Edit this on Wikidata

Sente Technologies (also known as Bally Sente, Inc.) was an arcade game company. 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 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[5] and Fox to release Lasercade and Atom Smasher (also known as Meltdown) but all three failed to come to market.[6] 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.

Sente Technologies[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

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 durable steel-framed 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 (a similar concept is Data East's DECO Cassette System). Three options were available to operators over the company's life: A large metal and plastic dedicated cabinet,[10] a more standard wooden dedicated cabinet,[11] and a conversion kit for existing machines.[12] 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. Snake Pit started shipping soon after but only a limited number of machines were sold before Sente had to stop distribution. [4] 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 renamed it Bally Sente.

Bally Sente[edit]

While the company had halted the release of Snake Pit during the period between the Pizza Time Theatre bankruptcy and the finalization of their sale to Bally they continued to develop additional titles. Once production was started back up they released a number of titles that year, including: Snake Pit,[4] 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. While Sente had originally focused on the ability to easily convert existing cabinets to new releases, which centered around their original metal framed and plastic bodied cabinet, Bally was much less interested in the feature. Many of the expensive original model cabinets were returned to Sente after Pizza Time's bankruptcy. Operators were concerned the company would not resume production and they would be left with an expensive cabinet that would not have any additional games released for it. This allowed them to recover the cost in case Sente closed down completely. When cabinet production resumed under Bally it focused on standard wooden upright cabinets and standard cocktail cabinets because of their reduced cost. Also, the original cartridge-based game board system that enclosed the game's PCB inside a large cartridge was replaced with cheaper bare PCB designs that were less expensive to produce.

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.[13]

Sente's last project was the Sente Super System,[14] 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 standalone 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)[15]
  • Gimme A Break (a pool game unrelated to the sitcom of the same name)
  • Goalie Ghost
  • Grudge Match (prototype)
  • Hat Trick
  • Mini Golf
  • Moonquake (Sente Super System prototype)[15]
  • Name that Tune (based on the game show of the same name)
  • Night Stocker
  • Off the Wall
  • Rescue Raider
  • Shrike Avenger (SAC-II prototype)[16]
  • Snacks'n Jaxson
  • Snake Pit
  • Spiker
  • Stocker
  • Stompin'
  • Street Football
  • Team Hat Trick (prototype, 15 playtest cocktail cabinets produced)[17]
  • Toggle
  • Trick Shot (prototype)[15]
  • Trivial Pursuit (All Sports Edition)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Baby Boomer Edition)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Genus I)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Genus II)
  • Trivial Pursuit (Young Player's Edition)


  1. ^ The Arcade Flyer Archive: Sente Technologies contact information Circa early 1984
  2. ^ The Arcade Flyer Archive: Bally Sente contact information circa late 1984
  3. ^ Krueger, Anne (March 1983). "Welcome to the Club". Video Games. 1 (6): 51–54, 81. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Stilphen, Scott (2011). "DP Interviews: Howard Delman". Digital Press. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  5. ^ Arcade History entry for Gridlee
  6. ^ Interview with Lee Actor
  7. ^ Antic Vol. 3 No. 12 - April 1985, archived at Classic Computer Magazine Archive
  8. ^ A History of the Former Atari Restaurant Operating Division
  9. ^ "Bushnell Reaches Accord with Atari". Hi Res: 10. November 1983.
  10. ^ The Arcade Flyer Archive: SAC-I deluxe cabinet flyer
  11. ^ The Arcade Flyer Archive: SAC-I standard cabinet flyer
  12. ^ The Adcade Flyer Archive: SAC-I Sac-Man conversion kit flyer
  13. ^ Shrike Avenger information at Own Rubin's personal site
  14. ^ The Arcade Flyer Archive: Sente Super System flyer
  15. ^ a b c UnMAME'd Arcade Games: Rare Midway games, including some Bally Sente games
  16. ^ List of most SAC-1 games with picture/information
  17. ^ TNT Amusment's YouTube Channel