Posted on June 29th, 2010 8 comments
As promised yesterday, more about Hacker International, the Japanese bad boy of 8-bit consoledom.
I (like a lot of NES fans, I suppose) first heard about Hacker from David Sheff’s book Game Over, where he mentions that the company attempted to defy Nintendo’s third-party licensee system for the Famicom, was sued, and went out of business shortly thereafter. The only factual part of that synopsis is that Nintendo sued Hacker, but it wasn’t for anything related to publishing unlicensed FC porn games and it was settled out of court before a verdict was reached. What’s more, Hacker had a very long history — long enough to result in 16 Famicom games, 22 Famicom Disk System titles (more than most legitimate FDS licensees), 13 PC Engine games (seven on CD-ROM), 15 licensed PlayStation releases under the name Map Japan, and even a handful of Windows titles. That’s not bad for a company so associated with 8-bit pornography, as laid out in this screenshot gallery of their FDS stuff (link very not safe for work).
Hacker was founded and led by Satoru Hagiwara, an entrepreneur and former music producer who thought he’d cash in on the personal-computer boom when it hit Japan in the mid-1980s. Their first product was a monthly PC magazine titled Hacker (above), as he explained in a 2005 issue of Game Labo:
“PCs were hitting it big at the time and tons of PC magazines were getting launched all over the place, so I asked a friend of mine who ran a publishing business if he was interested in putting one out. I figured that once we started releasing a magazine, the writers and know-how would come naturally. That’s how ‘Hacker’ got started — it’s a bit of an embarrassing name, but since we were launching after the pack, I went with something that had impact.”
So Hacker International wasn’t meant to be an “underground” outfit in the beginning?
“Not at all. But people who were into that sort of thing were attracted to the name, and they came to us. A lot of our writers were into games, and they came up with a lot of ideas for offbeat and fun products. I created Hacker International to help put those ideas out on sale. At around that time, I had a lot of negative emotions toward the collusion and under-the-table agreements [console game] publishers had with each other. Even so, none of the products we made broke any laws. The music industry ran under a set of well-defined laws, so perhaps that experience affected me a little too, but either way, I didn’t think to myself that we wanted to break the law with our products.”