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Data East Corporation was founded by Tetsuo Fukuda on April 20, 1976. Originally, the company was focused on hardware, namely interchangable tapes and parts inside arcade cabinets. Data East actually developed the first cartridge-based arcade system, the DECO Casette System, which was released in 1980.
It wasn't until 1979 that Data East began developing and publishing software. During the 1980's, Data East released some of the biggest arcade hits of the era including Burgertime, Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja, RoboCop, and Karate Champ. PC and console ports of many of these games were also commissioned and were rather successful. Data East also purchased licenses from companies such as Capcom, SNK, and Irem in order to manufacture and create arcade games based on their unique properties. It was this string of popular arcade and console hits that allowed Data East to weather the video game crash of 1983 better than most other companies.
Data East is also well known as a developer and manufacturer of pinball tables. In 1985, the company purchased the pinball division of Stern Electronics including all of its factories and assets. During their time in the pinball market, Data East advanced pinball technology with many innovations such as stereo sound and dot matrix displays which are still commonly found in pinball games today. Data East primarily developed pinball tables that featured high-profile licensed properties such as Guns N' Roses, Star Wars, RoboCop, The Simpsons, Batman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
During the early 1990's, Data East began to struggle financially. Data East spent a lot of money in acquiring expensive high-profile licenses for their pinball tables, and thus, when the market for pinball games began to shrink and sales plummeted, Data East was hit very hard. In 1994, Data East USA was sold to Sega as a part of debt settlement and later on in 1996 the entire pinball division of Data East was sold to Sega. In 1999, Sega sold all pinball assets that formerly belonged to Data East to Gary Stern who used it to create the Stern Pinball company. From 1999 to 2003, Data East sold electronics components and licensed out some of their game properties in the hopes of recovering from their financial woes and gaining enough capital to begin making games again. However, these efforts were not enough to save the company, and on June 25, 2003, Data East Corporation was declared bankrupt by a Tokyo district court. Paon Corporation, Ltd. bought the rights to some of Data East's games, and have since released some of them on the Wii virtual console. However, the vast majority of the Data East properties were acquired in February 2004 by G-Mode, a Japanese mobile games publisher. G-Mode has gone on to release mobile versions of several of Data East's arcade classics, but they are currently attempting to sell many of the licenses. G-Mode currently has deals in place to release Data East titles on the Wii virtual console and Gametap among other places.