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How Konami Tricked Nintendo

During the late ’80s and early ’90s, Nintendo had put forth an agreement with third-party companies to limit five published games a year for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States. The goal of limiting the published games was to keep third parties from flooding the market and collapsing it again. Nintendo wanted to maintain a sense of quality and control over what companies were putting out for their system.

This arrangement didn’t sit well with Konami, which had started a big push in Japan and was ready to break out in the US market. To remediate the situation, Konami established a shell corporation by the name of Ultra Software to release additional titles under.

The first game released by Ultra was Metal Gear for the NES. Soon other games followed including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with that dam level everyone hates so much. Eventually, Konami allowed other publishers to begin releasing under the Ultra label. This included Pirates! developed by Rare and Star Trek: 25th Anniversary developed by Interplay.

With the success of Ultra, Konami made a similar play in Europe establishing Palcom Software Limited. It shared the same library as Ultra, but included several games never released in North America such as Road Fighter, Crackout, and Parodius.

In 1991, the Super NES launched and Nintendo began to relax their restrictions on the number of games third party publishers could release. This resulted in Konami dropping the Ultra label in early 1992 and shutting Palcom down in 1994.

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