Key was founded on July 21, 1998 by Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, and Itaru Hinoue, after they parted ways with their previous employer Tactics to work at Visual Art’s. The Key brand officially belongs to Jun Maeda. The company released their debut title Kanon on June 4, 1999. Although being an adult visual novel, Key kept scenes with intercourse to a minimum to focus on the story. Key continued this with their second title Air, which was also an adult visual novel that places focus on the story rather than sex. Both Kanon and Air were later released with the adult content removed. Clannad was Key’s third release and was the first of Key’s releases that features no adult content at all. Clannad was followed by Planetarian ~Chiisana Hoshi no Yume~ and then Tomoyo After: It’s a Wonderful Life, which is an adult spin off of Clannad. Key then released Little Busters! which had an all ages version and a subsequent 18+ version. Key's most recent visual novel is 2018's Summer Pockets.
Key has met with great success in the Japanese market and have had a strong influence on the visual novel genre. This success does not extend outside Japan as none of Key’s games have been localized into any other language, though fan translations do exist. Despite this, Key's work has gained a significant following outside of Japan due to many of their visual novels serving as the basis for popular anime such as Air, Kanon, Little Busters and particularly Clannad.
- Four of Key’s releases (Kanon, Air, Clannad and Little Busters) have all been made into anime and manga
- The music from Key’s games are released under the label Key Sounds Label
- Key Net Radio is an internet radio run by Key where they discuss company happenings and information about games they are actively developing