Konami's Cheat To Get Around A Silly Nintendo Rule

Did you know that, before 1993, Nintendo of America had a rule that limited the number of games a publisher could release on one of it systems?

Yup. In a calendar year a publisher, or "licensee", could only release five games. No more. It was a rule with its heart in the right place: the great video game crash of 1983 had been largely brought about by a flood of cheap titles, so by seeking to limit the number of games a company could release, Nintendo was trying to avoid the same thing happening again.

But in practice it was a mess. Why should major, established companies be limited to only five games if they had the means to release six, seven or even 10 quality titles? They clearly felt they shouldn't be, so workarounds had to be discovered.

Konami came up with the most notorious (and also effective): they simply formed new companies. In 1988, Ultra Games was founded, superficially a new publisher but really just a spin-off of Konami's American operations. The company's catalogue serves to highlight just how silly Nintendo's 5-game rule was, as it contains some of the greatest video games of all time, like Metal Gear, Pirates!, Skate of Die and the TMNT arcade game.

The same thing happened in Europe, where Konami set up Palcom, a publisher doing largely the same thing (though with the awesome exception that it released Parodius, a classic shooter that never saw the light of day in North America).

Effective for the time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, both companies were slowly wound down after the release of the SNES, when Nintendo realised the rule was indeed a little bit much and scrapped it. Ultra was closed down in 1992, and Palcom wound up in 1994.

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Comments

    Now only if a similar rule can be implemented in the brown textures
    man shooter (COD) genre.

    5 games a year? I always thought the rule was 3 games a year. That
    aside though, Nintendo also micro-managed the process and even
    refused to use silicon outside of Japan to make their NES
    cartridges. That's what provoked the situation where Tengen (can't
    remember the name - might have even been an American company)
    obtained the code embedded in the 10NES chip so they could make NES
    cartridges using any form of silicon.

    Too bad they didn't do this for the Wii. =P

    That cover art looks suspiciously like Michael Biehn from the
    original terminator movie

      I'm sure it is, just as the Contra cover is a mashup of Predator
      and Rambo.

    They should have just made a "no games that suck" rule instead.
    It's clearly a better way of addressing the problem. "No crappy
    games please. Thanks!"ーmgmt. The wii really could have used this
    rule. I guess if the motion controls weren't always forced upon
    maybe the games wouldn't suck as much. Sometimes I really think
    about completing Skyward Sword, the only reason I bought a Wii, but
    I keep thinking of tiring and irritating it is to swing your arm
    around for 3 or 4 hours at a time. It's really hard to only play
    video games for 30mins at a time.

      I recently picked up the skyward sword limited edition (ebay yay!)
      and have been loving it. I play an hour or two each night and have
      no arm problems.

    The guy on the cover reminds me of the guy in Terminator.

    Warlok - thats because it is!
    http://www.shamoozal.com/nerdlog/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/mg_terminator.jpg

    Ultra games also made TMNT for NES.

    Loved that Metal Gear on the NES, spent hours upon hours on the game as a kid. Heaps of exploring and hours of gameplay, unlike today's Metal gear with hours upon upon of dull boring cutscenes followed by a few minutes of gameplay then another boring hour of cutscenes...

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