SNK is know for the NeoGeo consoles and handheld game devices in the 1990. This Japanese firm was also integral in the arcade scene with innovations like the MVS (Multi Video System) that allowed arcade owners, short on floor space, to put up to 6 different arcade titles into a single cabinet. Original intended for commercial sales, the AES (Advanced Entertainment System) was rented to hotels and bars as in-house entertainment. Despite the $600+ price, SNK realized that some consumers were willing to pay that price and the AES came home to living rooms. The limited edition NeoGeo X handheld "console" is my first hands-on experience with an SNK console.
SNK Playmore Company Overview
SNK Playmore Corporation is a Japanese video game hardware and software company. SNK is an abbreviation of Shin Nihon Kikaku which was SNK's original name. The company's legal and trading name became SNK in 1986. The original SNK was founded in Osaka, Japan, in July 1978 by Eikichi Kawasaki and existed until October 22, 2001. Anticipating the end of his first company, Kawasaki founded the company Playmore in August 2001 which became SNK Playmore in 2003. Due to this strong resemblance to the previous company both in name and identity, SNK Playmore is sometimes referred to simply as SNK.
SNK is most notable for creating the Neo Geo family in 1990, which contained many game consoles and arcade systems throughout the 1990s. Their most popular and successful console was the handheld Neo Geo Pocket Color from 1999, which was the last console of the Neo Geo family, which ended in 2001. There was also the NeoGeoWorld theme park, based on the Neo Geo brand.
When Eikichi Kawasaki noticed the rapid growth that was occurring in the coin-op video game market, he expanded SNK to include the development and marketing of stand-alone coin-op games. The first two known titles out of the new coin-op division were Ozma Wars (1979), a vertically scrolling space shooter and Safari Rally 1980, a maze game. Game quality improved over time, most notably with Vanguard (1981), a side-scrolling space shooter that many people consider the precursor to modern classics such as Gradius and R-Type. SNK licensed the game to Centuri for distribution in North America, who ultimately started manufacturing and distributing the game themselves when profits exceeded expectations.
On October 20, 1981, the North American division (SNK Corporation of America) was opened. They established themselves in Sunnyvale, California with the intent of delivering their own brand of coin-operated games to arcades in North America. The man chosen to run the American operation was John Rowe, the eventual founder of Tradewest and current (as of 2008) president and CEO of High Moon Studios.
SNK Corporation in Japan had at this point already shifted its focus solely toward developing and licensing video games for arcade use and (later) for early consoles. Between 1979 and 1986 they produced 23 stand-alone arcade games. Highlights from this period include Mad Crash (1984), Alpha Mission (1985), and Athena (1986), a game that gained a large following when it was ported to the NES in 1987. Their most successful game from this time frame was Ikari Warriors, released in 1986. Ikari Warriors was so popular that it was eventually licensed and ported to the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, ZX Spectrum and NES. They followed up Ikari Warriors with two sequels, Victory Road and Ikari III: The Rescue.
Even at this late point, the home market was still suffering from the fallout caused by the North American video game crash of 1983. Nevertheless, one console manufacturer in particular seemed to weather the crash fairly unscathed: Nintendo. SNK signed up to become a third-party licensee for Nintendo's Family Computer (Famicom) system in 1985 and opened a second branch in the United States, based in Torrance, California and called SNK Home Entertainment that would handle the North American distribution and marketing of the company's products for home consoles. By this time, John Rowe had left the company to form Tradewest, which went on to market SNK's Ikari Warriors series in North America. Subsequently, both halves of SNK America were now being presided over by Paul Jacobs, who is notable primarily for having helped launch the company's Neo-Geo system outside of Asia.
In response to strong sales of the company's NES ports, SNK began to dabble in the development of original software designed specifically for the NES console. Two games came out of this effort: 1989's Baseball Stars and 1990s Crystalis (God Slayer in Japan). 1989 also marked the release of two new home video game consoles in North America: the Sega Genesis and NEC's joint project with Hudson Soft, the TurboGrafx-16. Nintendo followed suit with a new system in 1991, the Super NES. Rather than become involved in the early 90s system wars, SNK Corporation in Japan jointly with SNK Corporation of America chose to refocus their efforts on the arcade market, leaving other third parties, such as Romstar and Takara, to license and port SNK's properties to the various home consoles of the time with help from SNK's American home entertainment division. With console ports mainly being handled outside the company, they moved on to developing SNK branded arcade equipment.
SNK also licensed Tiger Electronics to market handheld electronic games from some of its brands.