A Tall Tale of Tengen Graces This Week's Retronauts Micro

A Tall Tale of Tengen Graces This Week's Retronauts Micro

When Atari looked to the NES market, interesting things happened.

In my last episode of Retronauts Micro, I looked briefly into the history and circumstances of Konami's Ultra Games label. This time, I visit Ultra's mirror universe counterpart: Tengen, the short-lived NES publishing arm of Atari Games.

Both Ultra and Tengen existed entirely as ways to circumvent the third-party policies Nintendo of America adopted during the NES era. But where Konami was content to simply build a shell corporation and extend its publishing capabilities under the auspices of a "separate" publisher, Tengen took a sneakier approach. This arguably ended up hurting Atari in the long run, but for a brief while the Tengen brand represented a sort of rebel alliance against an indomitable empire: A band of rivals who joined together to take on the common enemy that Nintendo represented. The empire won in this particular instance, but you have to admire the derring-do of Atari and its united affiliates under the Tengen name.

Some of the highest-profile arcade games of the '80s ended up making it on to NES as unauthorized releases thanks to the friction between Nintendo and the Tengen group. And by high-profile I mean Pac-Man. And Tetris. That's about as big as it gets! So settle in and listen to this week's show before E3 hits and you stop caring about game history for a week.

Download links:

Libsyn (8:51 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud

Description:

Jeremy looks back at the dark counterpart to Konami spinoff Ultra Games: Atari spinoff Tengen, who didn't so much bend the rules of NES publishing as shatter them into a million tiny pieces.

Music in this episode: I've packed this brief episode with tunes from the NES version of Gauntlet and the arcade version of Rolling Thunder. It's good! Also, be sure to check out episode 91 of the original run of Retronauts, which offers a much deeper (and more informed) view of the Tengen experience!

Remember that Retronauts is available for free on the iTunes Store, or you can use our RSS feed to plug in to your favorite podcast audio player. You can also help us pay for the cost of producing the show on Patreon, if you're so inclined. Thanks for your support!

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Related articles

"The Biggest Concern with Stadia is That It Might Not Exist"

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | As Google streaming service preps for a bare bones launch, Microsoft positions Project xCloud as a compelling alternative

"If You See Someone Running Around and Screaming, You're Going to Run Around and Scream"

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | VR news, lawsuits, and a big splash on mobile from Nintendo mark a busy week for games in America (and for America, generally).

Starting Screen | NeoGAF's Fall is a Sign of the Times in More Ways Than One

STARTING SCREEN | On the sudden end of a long-standing gaming community.

You may also like

Microsoft CEO Says It Will Consider Buying More Video Game Companies in the Future

Even after a big buy, Xbox could still keep growing.

Nvidia RTX 3080 Scalpers Who Used Bots Might Get Taken Down by Bots in Return

Those bids in the tens of thousands of dollars? They may be meant to oust the scalpers.

Destiny 2 Adds a Memorial Quest For a Former Developer

Bungie is honoring a coworker and friend today.

Naughty Dog Promises "Exciting Things" for the Newly Renamed Last of Us Day

"Outbreak Day" isn't a thing anymore, by the by.