|Industry||Computer and video game industry|
|Founded||July 10, 1974 (Irem Corporation)
April 15, 1997 (Irem Software Engineering)
|Headquarters||Hakusan, Ishikawa, Japan|
(See complete products listing.)
Number of employees
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 Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture. Irem is probably best 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).
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.
Irem was founded in 1974 by Kenzo Tsujimoto under the name IPM, an abbreviation for International Playing Machine. Its purpose was to manufacture, sell, and rent arcade hardware cabinets. IPM released its first video arcade games in 1978, starting with IPM Invader (a copy of Taito's legendary Space Invaders). In 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 was replaced as chairman 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. Due to poor performances, 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.
As Irem entered the 1990s, its logo included a dragonfly because in Japan, dragonflies symbolize "martial success," due to similarity in the sound of the word "dragonfly" and "victory" in Japanese. However, shortly after that, the corporation began to decline. Sales were so poor that in 1994, Irem completely ceased development of video games. The company's original wholesale division, which was in charge of manufacturing and renting/selling arcade cabinets, split as a separate company and renamed itself Apies (アピエス Apiesu?); leaving Nanao with only the video game division. Then a group of employees, 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.
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. The publishing department of Irem Corporation, on the other hand, became under the direct control of Nanao who then sold it to none other than Apies in 1998.
Irem now develops and publishes games in Japan exclusively for the PlayStation 2, the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Portable. Overall, the video game development department is the only remnant of the former Irem Corporation which is still associated with the brand.
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
- "About Irem." Irem. Retrieved on October 20, 2009.
- "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.