Blog:Legal Brief: Atari vs. Sega

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CRV (talk) 05:49, 6 August 2017 (CEST) [permalink]

We now have "official" evidence of certain developers' involvement in certain Sega 8- and 16-bit games. But first, here's some background on the case that produced it:

In October 1993, Atari Corp.1 filed a lawsuit against Sega of America alleging infringement of a 1984 patent involving "horizontal scrolling on a video display."2 The Tramiel family company sought a preliminary injunction that would have halted the manufacture, use, and sale of Genesis and Game Gear hardware and software.

1. Atari Corp., incorporated on May 17, 1984, as Tramel [sic] Technology, Ltd., was started by ousted Commodore founder and president Jack Tramiel to create a new computer. In July of that year, the company bought Atari, Inc.'s consumer assets and was renamed Atari Corp.
2. U.S. Patent No. 4,445,114 ("Apparatus for Scrolling a Video Display")

The court found that the harm caused to Sega, retailers, developers, and peripheral manufacturers by this injunction would have likely outweighed whatever harm had been done to Atari, so the motion was denied. Nevertheless, a settlement was reached in September 1994 between both parties — Sega would acquire $40 million worth of stock in Atari and would also pay Atari $50 million for a license to use over 70 patents issued between 1977 and 1984. The companies agreed to cross-license up to five games per year through 2001. They also agreed to drop all claims against each other.

For the cash-strapped Atari Corp., this infusion of money was very important and likely helped enable deals with Williams, Acclaim, and EA and other projects that were in the hopper in 1995. Unfortunately, Atari president and CEO Sam Tramiel later had a heart attack, which prompted his father Jack to take back the reins of the company.3 Jack felt it was safer to tie up with JTS, a manufacturer of hard drives — a "brown box commodity" that required little marketing — than to continue piddling away money on video games and the Jaguar, which sold so poorly.4 Atari entered a reverse merger with JTS on July 30, 1996.

3. Jack Tramiel was CEO of Atari Corp. until his son took over in 1988. Jack had been and would remain Chairman of the Board.
4. 125,000 units sold

Ultimately, no Sega games ever made it to the Jaguar, but Atari did show interest. Sega sent a list of games available for licensing and, as you'll see in the memos posted below, eventually did approve a few. There was some speculation in the press that Virtua Fighter and Daytona could turn up on the Jag, but these were apparently off the table. Instead, Atari received a catalog of 8- and 16-bit games that also didn't include Sonic or Ecco. The list also notes if royalties would be owed to or need to be negotiated with a third party, usually outside developers, many of which are covered on this site.

References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]


Continue reading to see the list and related memos, followed by a summary and breakdown of the developers mentioned


Special thanks to Scott Stilphen for providing the preceding scans


(There are no earth-shattering discoveries, and there may even be errors, but otherwise this does back up claims we've made on this site for years.)

Sanritsu:

  • GG Aerial Assault
  • SMS Aerial Assault (music royalty to "Ishino")
  • SMS Alien Storm
  • SMS Assault City
  • SMS Bonanza Brothers
  • SMS Dragon Crystal
  • SMS Dynamite Duke
  • GEN/SMS E-SWAT
  • SMS G-LOC
  • GEN/SMS Gain Ground
  • GEN Out Run
  • SMS Psychic World
  • SMS Running Battle
  • GEN Wrestle War

(SMS Aerial Assault was definitely by Sanritsu, but the music was by Izuho Numata (nee Takeuchi). GG Aerial Assault doesn't seem like a Sanritsu game, and it came out in Japan in June 1992, a year after Sanritsu's "successor" SIMS was started.)

(Dragon Crystal shares a graphic designer with Line of Fire, "Gaga," who also worked on SMS Shadow Dancer and nothing else. Programmer "XYZ" doesn't turn up on any other Sanritsu/SIMS games.)

(On E-SWAT, a platform isn't specified for Sanritsu's royalty, which would imply they were owed for both the Genesis and Master System versions. A look at the credits suggests Sanritsu only did the latter.)

(I had a suspicion Sanritsu or SIMS was involved with Running Battle because of sound designer Hikoshi Hashimoto's involvement. Opera House also worked on it, and it was listed on their website.)

(Wrestle War used to be pictured on the SIMS website, but it looks like they handed off development to some other group.)

SIMS:

  • SMS Line of Fire
  • SMS Masters of Combat
  • GG Out Run
  • GG Putt & Putter

I.T.L:

  • GEN Arrow Flash
  • GEN Bonanza Brothers

JSH? ("Nihon")

  • GG Streets of Rage 2

Whiteboard:

  • SMS Danan: The Jungle Fighter

Santos:

  • GG Space Harrier
  • SMS Streets of Rage 2

(Code comparisons suggest both the SMS and GG versions of Streets of Rage 2 were by JSH.)

Megasoft:

  • GG Shinobi (list says Shinobi II; code number given, "2402," is for the first game)

(Megasoft was behind Shinobi III, but no one from Megasoft is credited on GG Shinobi as far I can tell.)

"Softarc" (Arc System Works?):

  • GG Ax Battler

(We've had this listed for Aspect because most of the programmers worked there, and it was released after Aspect was started. However, Noriyuki Tabata doesn't appear to have ever worked for Aspect; he worked at Arc and later at Minato Giken. Programmer/Aspect president Kazuyuki Oikawa previously worked on Arc's Road Spirits for the PC Engine.)

Hot-B ("Hottorei"):

  • GEN Crack Down

(An interview with one of the programmers)

Tiertex:

  • SMS GP Rider
  • GEN Turbo Out Run ("Taitechs")

"Token":

  • GEN Golden Axe
  • GEN Golden Axe II
  • GEN Golden Axe III

(Token?)

Probe:

  • GEN G-LOC

Amusement:

  • GEN Jewel Master

(Amusement was originally making this game for the Sharp X68000 computer, under the name Blade of the Great Elements. Incidentally, Amusement also worked on the Famicom RPG Double Moon Densetsu.)

Climax:

  • GEN Landstalker
  • GEN Shining in the Darkness

Westone:

  • SMS Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap

Gau Entertainment:

  • GEN Ranger-X

Digital Pictures:

  • SCD Double Switch
  • SCD Prize Fighter

Ancient ("Enshant"):

  • GG Shinobi (music royalty)
  • GEN Shinobi III (music royalty)
  • GEN/SMS/GG Streets of Rage (music royalty)
  • GEN/SMS/GG Streets of Rage 2 (music royalty)
  • GEN Streets of Rage 3 (music royalty)

(Ancient is Yuzo Koshiro's company. Neither he nor Ancient were involved with Shinobi III.)