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Founded 1987
Closed 1994
Headquarters Miltipas, California, USA
Other Names テンゲン (Japanese localization)

Tengen was a subsidiary of Atari founded by Randy Broweleit. The company was founded to target the console market, specifically to port existing Atari and Namco games. The company created games for many popular home consoles at the time including the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis. The company also had a short-lived Japanese division (Tengen Ltd.), usually responsible for localizing Atari's arcade games to the home console market in Japan, but also developed their own games.

Tengen sought discount rates from Nintendo explaining that they would be publishing highly successful arcade games to the NES, but at the same time, worked to reverse-engineer Nintendo's lockout chip. Negotiation attempts failed with Nintendo, and the engineers at Tengen were unsuccessful at reverse engineering the Nintendo's lockout chip. Not wanting to pay full price, and with the release date of the NES games drawing near, Tengen used the patent documents of the NES lockout chip to safely bypass the chip and produce unlicensed games. However, Nintendo successfully sued Tengen for illegally using their patent documents to reverse-engineer their patented lockout chip. Now, forced to play by the rules, Tengen had to pay the same high-prices for publication on the NES as other companies. In the April of 1994, Atari Games settled a lawsuit against Nintendo, thus making it a Nintendo license again. When Time Warner purchased Atari in 1994, all the talent from Tengen was absorbed, and the company was dissolved.

Tengen Ltd. in Japan suffered a similar fate; It was renamed to K.K. Time Warner Interactive, and in 1997, the company dissolved.


Music Development


Lisa Ching converted Atari's RPM sound engine to the Genesis and retitled it LSD (Lisa's Sound Driver). The music was written in Music Macro Language, just like the original RPM. According to former staff, the software was not to be seen by normal employees, and could only be used by audio leads of the company.

It is unknown exactly how music was made for Tengen's Japanese division, but it is possible they used the SMPS sound software from Sega themselves. Kenji Yokoyama seems to be the only composer who did audio for Tengen Japan's Mega Drive games.


The composers wrote the music in Music Macro Language using a sound engine which was converted from Atari's RPM music software. Atari's arcade sound engine was programmed by Rusty Dawe, and an unreleased version of Millipede for the NES also credits him with the sound driver, so he most likely was responsible for the conversion. However, he was never credited in any of the company's NES games.


Tengen did not actually make games for the SNES, and instead, they outsourced development to other companies, primarily Eastridge Technology and Gray Matter.

Audio Personnel

Fortunately, Tengen, like their other departments, used their original sound staff from Atari. This was a wise choice, as composers of the arcade versions could arrange their own music to the NES and other consoles, ensuring faithful renditions and arrangements of their original arcade scores.