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The unsung, underpaid heroes behind Donkey Kong


A new feature on Gamasutra outlines the development history of Nintendo's breakout hit, Donkey Kong. While it's widely known that the game design was a Shigeru Miyamoto joint, the programming on the arcade title was actually contract work by a company called Ikegami Tsushinki. The only "credit" the company had was a message hidden in the ROM: "CONGRATULATION !IF YOU ANALYSE DIFFICULT THIS PROGRAM,WE WOULD TEACH YOU.*****TEL.TOKYO-JAPAN 044(244)2151 EXTENTION 304 SYSTEM DESIGN IKEGAMI CO. LIM."

This message also showed up in Sega classics Congo Bongo and Zaxxon, proving that the same company developed some of the foundations of both Nintendo's and Sega's libraries.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, the arrangement with Ikegami meant that the contractor had the exclusive rights to produce Donkey Kong boards and sell them to Nintendo. When the game became a hit, Nintendo ignored this agreement and made 80,000 new boards on its own, essentially violating copyright on its own game. Nintendo then went on to reverse engineer its own game to produce Donkey Kong Jr., with the help of a company called Iwasaki Giken, which (according to GDRI) probably went on to become Nintendo second party Intelligent Systems. This led to a lawsuit that ended in a settlement in 1990, and ruled that Nintendo didn't have the rights to the arcade Donkey Kong code -- a ruling that goes far in explaining why we haven't seen a re-release of the original version.

[Image: The Arcade Flyer Archive]

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