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Native name
Kabushikigaisha Airemu Software Engineering
Industry Computer and video game industry
Founded July 10, 1974
(Irem Corporation)
April 15, 1997
(Irem Software Engineering)
Headquarters Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Key people
Masaki Ono (President)
Products List of Irem games
Number of employees
259 (March 2016)
Parent Eizo

Irem (アイレムソフトウェアエンジニアリング株式会社, Airemu Software Engineering) is a Japanese video game console developer and publisher, and formerly a developer and manufacturer of arcade games as well. The company has its headquarters in Chiyoda, Tokyo.[1]

The full name of the company that currently uses the brand is Irem Software Engineering. It was founded in 1997 by its parent company Nanao (now Eizo) for the purpose of taking over the development department of the original Irem Corporation, that had left the video game industry in 1994 to concentrate itself on the rental and sales of coin-op electronics. Irem Corporation was founded in 1974 as IPM and still exists today under the name of Apies.[2]

Irem is probably mostly known internationally for three 1980s arcade games: Moon Patrol (1982; licensed to Williams Electronics in North America), the earliest beat 'em up, Kung-Fu Master (1984), and the scrolling shooter R-Type (1987). Irem has been popular in Japan with games like Photoboy for the PC Engine and In the Hunt for the arcades.

As a result of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Irem canceled the majority of its remaining video game projects, including Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4: Summer Memories and Poncotsu Roman Daikatsugeki Bumpy Trot 2.[3] Irem refocused to become primarily a slot-machine and pachinko developer, the industry it was in before turning to video games. Many Irem designers, including producer Kazuma Kujo, gathered to form a new company called Granzella to continue creating video games.[3]


Irem's ancestor was founded in 1969 by Kenzo Tsujimoto in Osaka Prefecture. Tsujimoto opened his store in Osaka to sell machines for cotton candy stores. At the time, Tsujimoto was already confident in the potential of the game entertainment and started including the manufacturing of pachinko machines to his business as early as 1970. [4]

The success of the store led to the creation in 1974 of IPM Co Ltd, with Tsujimoto as its president. "IPM" stood for International Playing Machine. At first, IPM's purpose was to built and install gaming machines for Mom-and-pop candy stores in Japan and its initial vocation wasn't much different from Tsujimoto's previous venture.

With Breakout and its various clones dominating the video game scene, IPM started to manufacture, sell, and rent arcade hardware cabinets. In 1977, IPM partnered with Nanao Corporation of Ishikawa Prefecture to produce CRT monitors for its arcade cabinets.

IPM released its first video arcade games in 1978, starting with IPM Invader (a clone of Taito's legendary Space Invaders). In early 1979, IPM changed its name to Irem Corporation. The reason for this decision was because "IPM" was too confusing with IBM. [5] Irem is an abbreviation for "International Rental Electronics Machines".[6]

In 1980, Nanao became the majority shareholder of Irem Corporation.

Tsujimoto remained chairman of Irem Corporation in the early 1980s despite establishing in 1979 another company, I.R.M Corporation (the precursor of Capcom). However, Tsujimoto was blamed in 1982 for the declining sales of the video game IPM Invader and other lackluster titles, and was replaced by Nanao president Tetsushi Takashima.[4] The following year, Tsujimoto left the company to form Capcom.

In 1989, an office was inaugurated in Redmond, Washington as Irem America. It remained in operation until the restructuring of the Japanese parent company in 1994.

As Irem entered the 1990s, the corporation declined. Sales were so poor that in 1994, Irem completely ceased development of video games. The development department of Irem Corporation was transferred to Nanao's headquarters in Ishikawa Prefecture. The company's original wholesale division, in charge of manufacturing and renting/selling arcade cabinets, stayed in Osaka and was not impacted by the company's restructuring. Then, a group of employees from Irem's video game division, left to form their own company under the name Nazca Corporation, which became best known for developing SNK's Metal Slug franchise.

In late 1996, Irem released the video game Gussun Paradise (ぐっすんぱらだいす) for the PlayStation. Although this was the company's first video game in two years, this would also be the very last video game ever from Irem Corporation.

On April 15, 1997, Nanao founded Irem Software Engineering Inc. Shortly after in July 1997, Irem Software Engineering took over the development department of Irem Corporation and absorbed it.[7]

With the video game business gone to the new Irem Software Engineering, Irem Corporation was left with only its longtime arcade equipment division. In 1997, Nanao sold Irem Corporation to Yubis Corporation. In 1998, Irem Corporation was renamed Apies Corporation Ltd to avoid confusing the company with Irem Software Engineering. Ownership of Apies changed hands in 1999, when Yubis sold the company to Atlus. Atlus finally sold its shares of Apies in 2001 for 1 000 yen.[8] Apies has been an independent company since then. With the decline of amusement equipment, Apies leading products, as of 2016, are fortune-telling machines and vending machines. The company is now located in Wakō.[2]

Since its inception in 1997, Irem Software Engineering has developed and published, under the Irem trademark, video games in Japan mainly for the various PlayStation and Nintendo platforms. Irem Software Engineering owns the rights to the video games that were produced by Irem Corporation and has continued the legacy of some franchises such as R-Type and Spelunker. In contrast to Irem Corporation, Irem Software Engineering has never released any arcade video games. Irem has largely abandoned in the 2010s the development of console video games in favor of software games based on pachinko machines.[9] The company had long been based in Hakusan but moved in 2010 to Chiyoda, Tokyo.[1] It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Eizo Corporation (formerly Nanao).

PlayStation Home[edit]

Irem released a promotional space in the Asian and Japanese versions of PlayStation Home, the PlayStation 3's online community-based service. The space is called the "Irem Square". This space features various "Night Stalls" with free items such as a yukata and was released on February 26, 2009 in the Japanese version. Users can also access the game space for Minna de Spelunker from this space. On April 1, 2009, Irem gave away free "Combatant of the Black Irem Brigade" suits in the space that were only available for that day.[10] There is also a store in the space that users can purchase items from Irem. This space was released in the Asian Home on July 16, 2009, but the only way users could access it, at the time, was by riding in the space ship that was accessed at the "Bus Stop" in the Home Square. The ship departed every fifteen minutes and after landing, users got a hat that is modeled after the ship. The space was added to Asia's world map on July 23, 2009. On August 13, 2009, Irem added another space called the "Seaside of Memories", which is a beach resort with three accessible huts. The first hut has a shop for swimsuit apparel and the other two are just for users to sit and chat. This is also the first Home Space to let users go in and under the water and if they stay under the water too long, they get sent back to the entrance of the space. On December 3, 2009, Irem released another space to Japan for their game R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate called the Sparkling Flash Space, which is based in space and features displays of three R-Type Shooters and a mini-game.[11] During the holiday season in Home, Irem redecorated their spaces for the occasion. Irem redecorated the spaces, except the Sparkling Flash Space, for Christmas from December 17, 2009 until January 7, 2010. They were decorated for the New Year (2010) from January 7, 2010 to January 14, 2010 in Japan and from January 7, 2010 to January 21, 2010 in Asia. From January 28, 2010 to February 18, 2010, there was an event going on, in collaboration between Irem, Nippon Ichi Software, and Sony Computer Entertainment, in Asia called the "Black Irem Brigade". Irem Square was also available in the North American PlayStation Home.[12] It is no longer available due to closure of PlayStation Home in 2015.


April Fools[edit]

Irem is also known for staging elaborate April Fools jokes, creating web sites that are usually dedicated to promoting something that tends to poke fun at themselves and their games. A listing of these sites are found below and on their main site gallery here.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]