Founded: April 20, 1976
Data East (データイースト) was founded by Tetsuo Fukuda (福田 哲夫) on April 20, 1976, as an electronic engineering company which focused on integrating interchangeable tapes inside arcade game devices, allowing video games operators to replace a game from a machine without having to replace the cabinet itself. Realizing the money that could be made within the interactive content, Data East began developing arcade video games in 1978 starting with their first arcade game, Super Break, while they established a U.S division in 1979, after most of their chief competitors like Sega and Taito had already established a market presence. While making games, Data East released a series of interchangeable systems compatible with their arcade games, notably the DECO Cassette System and the Multi Conversion Kit, but these products soon became infamous among their users due to their numerous technical problems. The company proved to be one of the more successful and long-lasting companies in the business, surviving the video game crash of 1983 in reasonably good shape and going on to release dozens of games for both arcade and home console systems over the next two decades. By 1985 Data East had shifted away from interchangeability to concentrate themselves on video games only.
Data East also made pinball tables from 1987 through 1996, acquiring the former factory and assets of Stern Electronics. The company created innovations such as the first pinball to have stereo sound, the first usage of a small dot matrix display in Checkpoint along with the first usage of a big DMD (192x64) in Maverick. In designing pinball machines, they showed a strong preference for using high-profile (but expensive) licensed properties, rather than creating totally original machines, which did not help the financial difficulties the company began experiencing from 1990 on. The pinball division was created in 1985 by Amidst plummeting sales across the entire pinball market, Data East chose to exit the pinball business and sold the factory to Sega in 1996, which became the Sega Pinball, Inc. division of the company. By the end of the 1990s, the company's American division, Data East USA, had been liquidated and Data East had ceased to exist outside of Japan.
Unable to escape their mounting financial problems, Data East filed for reorganization in 1999 and resumed making video games. For the following three and a half years, Data East sold negative ion generators and licensed some of their old games to other companies; all of this in hope of collecting enough money to be able to make video games again and return to the competition. Nonetheless, the company's restructuring efforts were not enough to put back the financial problems brought by the 1990s and in April 2003 Data East filed for bankruptcy and were finally declared bankrupt by a Tokyo district court on June 25, 2003.The news was released to the public two weeks later, on July 8. Most of Data East's intellectual properties were acquired in February 2004 by G-Mode, a Japanese mobile game content provider, who continue to use the Data East name for smartphone rereleases of Data East's various games.