|Industry||Computer and video game industry|
|Founded||July 10, 1974 (Irem Corporation)
April 15, 1997 (Irem Software Engineering)
|Headquarters||Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan|
(See complete products listing.)
Number of employees
|259 (March 2016)|
Irem (アイレム Airemu?) 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. Irem is probably mostly known 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). In recent years, Irem has greatly diminished its input for video game consoles and has instead focused its attention in developing video game software based on Pachinko machines.
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 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 Co Ltd and still exists today under the name Apies.
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. Irem refocused to become primarily a slot-machine and pachinko developer, the industry it was in before turning to video games. Its video game division was dissolved in April 2011 and many Irem designers, including producer Kazuma Kujo, gathered to form a new company called Granzella to continue creating games.
After Kenzo Tsujimoto registered the name "IPM" to the Osaka chamber of commerce in 1969, it took 5 years for the company to actually come into existence.
Irem was founded in 1974 under the name IPM Co Ltd. At first, its purpose was to built machines for Mom-and-pop candy stores in Japan. Impressed with the success of Atari's Breakout arcade video game, IPM started to manufacture, sell, and rent arcade hardware cabinets. In 1977, IPM partnered with Nanao Corporation of Ishikawa Prefecture to produce cathode-ray tube CRT monitors for its arcade cabinets.
IPM released its first video arcade games in 1978, starting with IPM Invader (a copy of Taito's legendary Space Invaders). In early 1979, IPM changed its name to Irem Corporation. Originally an abbreviation for "International Rental Electronics Machines", the meaning of Irem's acronym was changed to "Innovations in Recreational Electronic Media" in the first half of the 1980s.
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 poor performance of the video game IPM Invader and other lackluster titles, and was replaced by Nanao president Akira Takashima. Tsujimoto left the company the following year to form Capcom.
In 1985, the sales department of Irem spun off as a separate company called Irem Sales Co Ltd. It was re-merged into Irem Corporation in 1989. Around this time, Japanese supermarket chain Daiei acquired half of Nanao's shares to control Irem Corporation. However, due to poor management, all the shares were sold back to Nanao.
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 began to decline. 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, tired of the company's inactivity, 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.
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. Apies has remained an independent company ever since. With the decline of amusement equipment, Apies leading products, as of 2016, are fortune-telling machines and vending machines.
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. The company had long been based in Hakusan but moved in 2010 to Chiyoda, Tokyo. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of EIZO Corporation (formerly Nanao).
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. 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. 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. It is no longer available due to closure of PlayStation Home in 2015.
Until November 2011, various Irem games including the R-Type series were available on the Wii's Virtual Console service. That month, Irem began its removal of all games from the service, with all of them being gone by the end of March 2012. All Irem games for the Turbografx-16 were also returned into the service on mid-September 2013.
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.
- April Fools 2000: R-Type Force Sweets
- April Fools 2001: Dokidoki Suikoden Dating Sim
- April Fools 2002: Zettai Zetsumei Toshi Crowbars (with additional colors)
- April Fools 2003: "Real Life" R-9 Unit
- April Fools 2004: Irem Burger
- April Fools 2005: Next generation console "Exidna"
- April Fools 2006: Investigations into the UMA of Hakusan Lake
- April Fools 2007: Opening of IREM Gakuen
- April Fools 2008: IREM Zoo
- "Apies company profile". Apies Ltd. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- Parish, Jeremy (2011-08-06). "Kazuma Kujo Interview: Keeping Irem's Spirit Alive". 1UP.COM. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
- "Irem reveals details, screenshots of Irem Plaza Home lounge". Qj.net.
- "Sparkling flash space". SCE. Retrieved 2009-12-04.