Monday, November 5, 2012

More Odds and Ends - Ikegami Tshshinki, Elcon, First Video Game Death

From the March 1976 Play Meter
I was looking through yet another court case today and once again it yielded some interesting info.

The case is Nintendo of America, Inc. v. Elcon Industries, Ind. (564 F Supp 937), available here:,5

It is a lawsuit regarding the game Crazy Kong - a bootleg of Donkey Kong but it wasn't really a bootleg (at least not entirely  - read on)

The first bit of info involves a company called Ikegami Tshshinki.
If you haven't heard of them, they are a Japanese manufacturer of TV cameras formed in 1946. Supposedly they did most, if not all of the programming for Donkey Kong.

See the following for basic info:

Rumor has it that they also worked on the following games:

Nintendo: Block Fever, Computer Othello, Space Launcher, Sheriff, Space Demon, Helifire, Radar Scope, Space Firebird, Space Fever, Sky Skipper, and Popeye

Sega: Congo Bongo, Zaxxon

If the rumors are true, that would make them one of the great unknown video game design firms from the golden age.

They are supposed to have had a verbal contract with Nintendo to design 8 games.
Nintendo is supposed to have paid them 10 million yen.
Suppsedly, they sued Nintendo for copyright violation in 1983 after Donkey Kong Jr. came out seeking 580 million (settled out of court in 1990). Another trial allegedly found that Nintendo didn't own the right do Donkey Kong.

But are the rumors true?

I don't know if any documentation from those trials has ever turned up.
The main evidence for these claims seems to be:
1) A Japanese book called It Started With Pong (translated title) by Masumi Akagi published in 2005. (if I read Japanese I might try to get a copy, but I don't)
2) a message that appears in the Donkey Kong ROMs.
3) Images of the Ikegami logo in the tilesets for Congo Bongo and Zaxxon.

As I was perusing the case above, I found this little tidbit:

"Nintendo Co., Ltd. expended over $100,000.00 in direct development of the game, and Nintendo Co., Ltd. hired Ikegami Tsushinki Co., Ltd. to provide mechanical programming assistance to fix the software created by Nintendo Co., Ltd. in the storage component of the game. The name "Ikegami Co. Lim." appears in the computer program for the Donkey Kong game. Individuals within the research and development department of Nintendo Co., Ltd., however, created the Donkey Kong concept and game. The operation of the Donkey Kong game includes the use of the audio-visual material which was originally created for use in the game by Nintendo Co., Ltd."

So much for Ikegami but what about the rest of the case.

One thing that I found interesting is that Nintendo actually granted a license Falcon, Inc. to sell Crazy Kong in Japan (this fact has been disputed). Why would they license someone to produce a knockoff of their own game?

Elcon Industries was using Falcon boards (via Artic International, a company that had already gotten in legal hot water with Williams).

First of all, what about Elcon Industries.

From Play Meter, June-Jully 1975 - an early ad for Elcon
Back when they were still Electronic Concept Industries

Elcon was founded in Michigan in the 1970s by Andre Dubel. They were incorprated on September 2, 1977. At various times, they were located in Bloomfield Hills, Ferndale, and Royal Oak. The name was short for Electronic Concept Industries

Below is a list of games I've found by them:

Double Play (Tennis/Hockey)
Triple Play (aka Tennis/Hockey/Soccer)
Circus [lic Exidy]
The Six Pack [cabinet, not a game]
TV Pinball
(c6) Cosmic Attackers
(s10) Dodge 'Em
Royal Flush Draw Poker
Super Casino
Video Blackjack
Astro Combat
(11) Crazy Kong [BL]
Tank Battalion
Devil Zone

I'm not sure about all of those titles.

So were they a legitimate company? I don't really know. Almost all of their games appear to be copies of other games. Maybe they actually licensed some of the games. Maybe they were just a distributor at first. The flyer for Cosmic Attackers (seemingly an exact copy of Space Invaders) claims that they manufactured games. Video Bowl was Exidy's Robot Bowl. I'm not sure if they actually had a game called Highjumpers (it was the same as Circus). Blockbuster is Breakout

On the other hand, if they were bootlegging the games, it seems odd that they would advertise them so heavily in the trade mags (the Blockbuster ad/flyer appeared in almost all of them).The Circus flyer mentions that the game was the hit of the 1977 AMOA show but I didn't see a note in there that they licensed it from Exidy.
Then again, Artic/ATW produced flyers too and they were taken to courty by Williams (though I don' know if they advertised their bootlegs).

The First Video Game Death?

What was the first coin-op video game-related death?
Most sources point to Peter Bukowski, who died of a heart attack at Friar Tuck's game room in Calumet City, IL on April 3, 1982 after playing Berzerk (though he apparently had an existing heart condition, was overweight, and had run up the stairs prior to playing).

Many sources, in fact, list this as the only known case of a coin-op video-game related death (Jeff Daily is also said to have died in 1981 after playing Berzerk but details are sketchy and the story is doubted).

Actually, there was a video-game related death long before Bukowski's. The March, 1975 issue of Play Meter reports that Charley Currie, an operator from Ontario was electrocuted on December 3rd, 1974 while playing a "TV game" he'd just installed. He put it next to another (non video) game and neither of them were grounded. He was touched instantly when he touched the other game.

There is yet another game related death (involving a child crushed to death by a game) but I won't go into that one. (I may put it in the book, but may not since it could dredge up bad memories for those involved).


  1. Translated excerpt from "Sore wa 'Pong' kara Hajimatta":

    A court judgment, a wall of Japanese text:

  2. Keith, your mention of Elcon got me to google them, and I ran across this: An Atari Kiosk/Theatre copy-cat. Pretty interesting... I'd love to know more about the company.

  3. The reason Nintendo actually licensed to Falcon is simple.

    They couldn't keep up demand in both US and their own country. Since they were really after the US with this game, they decided they'd rather send all their PCBs to the USA, and collect from Falcon at home. Of course, they really should have known better. Falcon continued making the game, and did export it, and the other bootleggers also got their hands on it.

    Seems to imply that Elcon was bought out by Micropin in their later years.

    1. Yes, Micropin purchased Elcon on January 1, 1982. Since Micropin was a public company at the time, I have their annual report. The relationship didn't last long as Elcon's major legal troubles started soon afterward and they eventually closed down show. Andre Dubel went into the home inspection business.

    2. Nice to see that confirmed.

      This is what I ended up writing for the Undumped wiki regarding the Whiskey Barrel:

      I made the aesthetic choice to list the other ones you've listed in this post. I feel like I either made that list originally or made my own, either way they are all here with sources where available:

  5. Marketing-ese: "three styles, five different games":
    Three styles:
    Model Thirty, Model Forty, Rectangular Model.
    Five different games:
    Double Play, Triple Play. 2+3=5. :-)