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Japanese Game Developers - The Big Four

The Big Four Japanese game developers are Nintendo Co. Ltd., Sega Sammy Holdings, Namco Bandai Holdings and Konami.

Super Mario DSNintendo, based in Kyoto, is the biggest but also the oldest company in the game industry. It was originally founded in 1889 to produce handmade hanafuda cards, used in a Japanese playing card game. In the mid-twentith century, the company tried several small niche businesses, such as a love hotel and a taxi company. Over the years, it became a video game company, one of the most powerful in the industry. Aside from video games, Nintendo is also the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners.

Major products include Game Boy, Famicom, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Nintendo DS, and the 7th generation Wii. Nintendo has been behind the huge success of such titles as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Pocket Monsters and have published over 250 games, developing at least 180 of them, and have sold over 2 billion games worldwide.

The company took a major gamble on a whole new game concept with the launch of its Wii console, as a successor to the GameCube, in 2006. Aimed at a wider demographic than earlier and rival consoles, it's hand-held remote unit was used as a tennis racket, boxing glove and a range of other game implements that got players much more physically involved in games. Initial customer complaints included straps breaking and units smashing into TV screens, but the Wii quickly became a major commercial success, selling more units in the U.S. than the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined in the first half of 2007.In Japan it has outsold rivals by 3:1 or more. It has sold almost 12 million units worldwide as of mid-October 2007.

Sega provided many of the hits for arcade games, such as Frogger and Zaxxon, and enjoyed huge success in the home console market with its Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast. But after losing to Nintendo and Sony in the fierce competition of the 1990s, they pulled out and began concentrating on software development for multiple platforms. Sega has its origins in a company called Standard Games set up by three Americans in Hawaii in 1940, which in 1951 moved to its present base in Tokyo. The current name comes from the phrase "SErvice GAmes of Japan," and was adopted after a merger in 1965.

Namco was founded in Tokyo in 1955 as a company that made children's rides for stores. The company adopted its current brand name in 1972, and acquired the Japanese division of Atari in 1974, thus bringing Namco into the coin-operated video game market. 1980 saw the introduction of one of the company's most famous coin-operated arcade games, Pac-Man, designed by Toru Iwatani. Later Namco started developing games for the Nintendo Famicom home console unit, beginning with Galaxian. Other major titles include Soul Calibur and Tekken. In September 2005, Namco merged with Bandai to create "Namco Bandai Holdings".

Konami is a leading developer and publisher of numerous popular and strong-selling computer and video games. As of 2005, it is the 4th largest game developer in Japan. The company was founded in 1969 as a jukebox rental and repair business in Osaka by Kagemasa Kozuki, the still-current chairman and CEO. The name "Konami" is a conjunction of the names Kagemasa Kozuki, Yoshinobu Nakama, Hiro Matsuda, and Shokichi Ishihara, who were partners acquired by Kozuki and the original founders of Konami Industry Co., Ltd in 1973. Konami also means "Small waves." Konami is currently headquartered in Tokyo and additionally operates health and fitness clubs in Japan.

Major titles include Dance Dance Revolution, Winning Eleven (known internationally as Pro Evolution Soccer), Tokimeki Memorial, and Metal Gear.

Other Players

Biohazard 2Capcom is a leading developer and publisher of computer and video games. It was founded in 1979 in Osaka as Japan Capsule Computers, a company devoted to the manufacturing and distribution of electronic game machines. Their current name is a conjunction of Capsule Computers. Major titles include Street Fighter and Biohazard (known as Resident Evil outside Japan).

Square Enix's Final Fantasy, first released in 1987, is the most widely distributed game series of all time, including both standard console games and portable games, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, games for mobile phones, three anime series, and two full length CGI films. Other top selling RPG series are Dragon Quest (known as Dragon Warrior in North America from 1989 until 2005), and Kingdom Hearts. Square Enix was formed in 2003 as the result of a merger between rivals Square Co. and the Enix Corporation.

Taito is the company that brought the world Space Invaders, designed by employee Nishikado Toshihiro in 1978. Actually established by a Russian in 1953, Taito started out importing vending machines and only got into video game production in 1973. Taito closed its US office in 1995 and has since distributed games in North America through other companies. Taito was acquired by Square Enix in 2005.

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