International Game Developers Association
| b. ???
d. July 11th, 1994
Hideyuki Nakajima was the president of Tengen during the famous lawsuit with Nintendo. He worked with Namco president Masaya Nakamura in 1973 as general manager of Atari Games Japan and purchased Atari Games in 1987 after the Warner breakup where he ran the division until around 1993. He died of lung cancer on July 11, 1994.
I first heard about Hideyuki Nakajima through Steven Kent's history of video games. Unfortunately, little is known about Mr. Nakajima outside of this book, and as such, most of the material regarding him results in a history of Tengen rather than the life of an individual. There is scant information about Mr. Nakajima as an individual, with most information revolving around reader interpretations of Tengen's lawsuits with Nintendo. Eddie Adlum, publisher of RePlay, had this to say about him:
"He was very "American" for a Japanese man. Culturally, they are different people, but he was almost like an American with a Japanese accent. Just a really neat man. I remember I was at an Atari convention down in Hilton Head, and I asked him some sort of a philosophical question about the industry and he looked at me and said something like, 'That is a strange question for the preacher to be asking.' I really got a kick out of that. Here was this big deal from Namco and Atari calling me 'the preacher.'"
- Steve Kent, page 371
Beyond this, a little bit of information may be gained from Mr. Nakajima's Atari vaxmail messages. When he first joined the company, he asked employees not to censor their messages as "Uncensored messages are the ones [that are] actually fun to read." He seems to have been a decent golfer, taking third place in the May 1991 Atari Classic Golf Tournament and received recognition for being closest to the pin. On June 19th, 1992, he was dunked in the 'dunk your favorite executive' game for charity to the Children's Society of California. He also approved of the 20th Anniversary Atari jackets and held obligatory team meetings in the Atari Games cafeteria as per the company's corporate culture. To learn more about Mr. Nakajima's role in the industry though, we of necessity have to refer to his role at Atari Games as recorded by Steven Kent, beginning with his history at Namco.
Mr. Nakajima was hired by Nolan Bushnell to become general manager of Atari Japan in 1973 and worked with Masaya Nakamura in the early days of Namco. The two attended trade shows around the world to promote their products and seek new opportunities. Mr. Nakajima became president of Atari Games in 1987 after Mr. Nakamura sold his stock in the company following the Time Warner shakeup. Under his ownership, Mr. Nakajima created Tengen as a subsidiary of Atari Games as they were unable to use the Atari name on home entertainment products due to licensing issues. Following Atari tradition, the name Tengen refers to the center of a Go board. Under this name, Atari Games published Atari's arcade games such as Gauntlet for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and other platforms, and also licensed for the NES Sega arcade games such as Afterburner and Shinobi, and Namco games such as Pac-Man and Rolling Thunder.
Due to the importance of Atari's previous track record in the games industry, Mr. Nakajima requested of Nintendo that his company have special privileges to get around the company's strict publishing rules for the NES, to be allowed to publish more than five games a year and to publish those titles for other platforms sooner than two years. Mr. Nakajima's request was rejected and Tengen began taking measures into its own hands to bypass the NES's copyright protection chip, 10NES, through the development of their own Rabbit chip, releasing their games in custom black cartridges.
Under Mr. Nakajima, Atari aggressively filed an antimonopoly suit against Nintendo on December 12, 1988. Nintendo countersued in November 1989 claiming Tengen was guilty of â€œpatent infringement, breach of contract, unfair competition, and tortious interference with contract.â€ Nintendo also warned retailers not to carry Tengen products. The courts ruled in Nintendo's favor, arguing that while the data produced by the 10NES copyright protection chip was not protected under copyright law (only the program could be protected, not the data it produced), Nintendo had demonstrated that Atari had copied the code of the 10NES for their Rabbit chip rather than reverse-engineering it as the company claimed, infringing copyright. Whether he was bitter over his relationship with Nintendo or truly believed his company was in the right, Mr. Nakajima continued to insist his company's innocence and Nintendo's unfair business practices.
Nintendo later successfully sued Atari Games over Tengen's Tetris, firmly securing their publishing rights to the famous puzzle game by November 1989. Mr. Nakajima continued to run Atari into the 1990s, during which time he managed the production of Hard Drivin' (1988) and Street Drivin' (1993). Tengen closed after Time Warner purchased the Atari Corporation in 1993. Mr. Nakajima died of lung cancer on July 11, 1994.
- Devin Monnens
- Hard Drivin' -management- (1988)
- Street Drivin' -management- (1993)
- 1985-1993 â€“ President, Atari Games
Links and Sources
- US International Trade Commission document that mentions him in a hearing regarding copyrights to Namco arcade games Wiz, Rally-X, and Pac-Man
- Court document regarding distribution of games in Australia with Avel
- mentioned in an old RePlay interview
- The Ultimate History of Video Games (371-381)
- Atari vaxmail files