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Ultra Games

Ultra Games was a video game publishing company owned by Konami.  The company was established as a shell corporation in 1988 to bypass Nintendo of America’s strict licensing rules that were in place for the North American market.  

When Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, they established the Nintendo Seal of Quality and a set of rules that third-party development studios had to follow in order to publish games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.   They entered the video game market after the video game crash of 1983 and had to establish relationships with retailers and rebuild their confidence in the market for video games.  One of the main reasons for the video game crash of 1983 was the overabundance of poor-quality games on the market for 2nd generation video game console such as the Atari VCS, ColecoVision and Intellivision.

The Nintendo Seal of Quality was meant to stop low quality games from being released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in mass and to avoid the same outcome as the Atari VCS and other 2nd generation home consoles.  One of the rules that Nintendo put in place was that third-party companies were limited to publishing up to five games per year for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America.   These same rules were not put in place in Japan as the Japanese market was not affected by the video game crash.  These strict rules affected Konami as they were already publishing more than ten games a year for both the Nintendo Famicom and Famicom Disk System in Japan.  Following the Nintendo Seal of Quality set of rules would limit their ability to port games for the North American market and limit the company’s overall revenue potential.

Konami's United States corporate office
Type Subsidiary
Parent Company Konami
Location Buffalo Grove, IL
United States
Publisher Ultra Software Corporation
Founded 1988
Defunct 1992

With a well-established game library for the Famicom in Japan Konami had the potential to localize their existing games for the North American market in a quick manner.  To get around Nintendo’s rule that third-party publishers were limited to releasing five games per year Konami formed the Ultra Games brand to extend its annual library to ten games per year.   They did this by setting up a shell corporation, a company that exists on paper only and does not have an office or employees.  Konami used their United States corporate office for the distribution of games published under the Ultra Games publishing label.

Ultra Games began by publishing Konami developed games and later branched out to publishing games that where developed by other studios such as Cinemaware, Rare and Electronic Arts.  The first game they published was Metal Gear for the Nintendo Entertainment System and they continued to publish some of Konami’s more popular titles such as Operation C, Snake’s Revenge and multiple Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy.

As retailers regained confidence in the video game market Nintendo relaxed its restrictions on the number of games third-party companies could publish each year when they launched the Super Nintendo in 1991.  As a result, there was no longer any benefit for Konami to retain the Ultra Games brand and they disconnected the label in early 1992.

Known For:

1988Metal Gear BoxMetal GearNintendo Entertainment System
Commodore 64
1988Skate or Die!Nintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiSports
1989Gyruss BoxGyrussNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiFixed Shooter
1989Q*bertNintendo Entertainment SystemGottliebAction
1989Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles BoxTeenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesNintendo Entertainment System
Commodore 64
1989Defender of the Crown BoxDefender of the ClownNintendo Entertainment SystemCinemawareStrategy
1989Silent Service BoxSilent ServiceNintendo Entertainment SystemRareSubmarine Simulator
1990Kings of the BeachNintendo Entertainment SystemElectronic ArtsSports
1990Snake's Revenge BoxSnake's RevengeNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiStealth
1990Mission Impossible BoxMission: ImpossibleNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiAction
Third-person Shooter
1990Rollergames BoxRollerGamesNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiSports
Roller Derby
1990Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade GameNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiAction
1990Motocross ManiacsGame BoyKonamiRacing
1990Nemesis BoxNemesisGame BoyKonamiHorizontal Scrolling Shooter
1990Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot ClanGame BoyKonamiAction
1990QuarthGame BoyKonamiPuzzle
Shoot 'em up
1991Ski or DieNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiSports
1991Base WarsNintendo Entertainment SystemKonamiSports
1991Sid Meier's Pirates! BoxPirates!Nintendo Entertainment SystemMicroProseAction-Adventure
1991Operation C BoxOperation CGame BoyKonamiRun and Gun
1991Blades of Steel Game Boy BoxBlades of SteelGame BoyKonamiSports
1992Nightshade BoxNightshadeNintendo Entertainment SystemBeam SoftwareAction-adventure
1992Star Trek: 25th AnniversaryNintendo Entertainment System
Game Boy
1992Ultra GolfGame BoyKonamiSports
1992World Circuit SeriesGame BoyKonamiRacing