They say that you canít keep a good game company down. Actually, I donít know if anyone really says that, but the fact of the matter is that it supports my topic for today, so letís just go with it.
There are plenty of game companies from the past that just canít seem to die no matter how badly the companyís games, executives, or competitors try to kill it. Whether the company just lives on in name, in spirit, or in its entirety, there are plenty of companies that have fallen and, like that place in Arizona, have risen again from the ashes to give this whole ďvidja-game makinĒ thing one more try.
Letís take a look at one of these companies today, tracking its glory days, fall, and eventual rebirth.
Tradewest: All this has happened before and will happen again
Weíll have to go back in time a bit for this one. If you love games like Ikari Warriors, Battletoads, Double Dragon, and Battletoads/Double Dragon, then you likely know the name Tradewest, which originally published a few SNK arcade games in the States before switching to home consoles right around 1988.
In fact, Tradewestís ties with SNK were rather tight in the beginning. Tradewest was founded in 1986 by an ex-SNK executive by the name of John Rowe, along with a banker/rancher Leland Cook and his son Byron Cook. You canít make this stuff up. Tradewest was founded in part by a farmer. Man, Texas is awesome sometimes.
Anyway, the early days of arcade cabinet development for Tradewest wasnít particularly awesome. Sure, Ikari Warriors was a pretty great game, but the games that Tradewest made themselves werenít so awesome. There was Redline Racer, which Iím only about 65% sure is a real game, because I canít find any real information about it. Then there was Victory Road, the sequel to Ikari Warriors. Again, I donít know a ton about this game, nor is there a whole lot written about it out there, but hereís a choice nugget from Wikipedia: ďUpon starting the game the player would be greeted by a giant floating head who would exclaim, "Warriors! Show some guts! You can't escape me! Come get me if you can! Ha ha ha ha haa!" At this point the floating head would fly off screen and the gameplay commenced.Ē What I gather from this is that, basically, the game was awesome.
Tradewest really came into its own later in its life. It published the NES version of Double Dragon in the US in 1988, and later published the Game Boy version in 1990. They also formed the Leland Corporation, which made a few somewhat memorable games in its short days, including John Elway's Quarterback Challenge and Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off Road, both of which having a propensity toward showing up in old local pizza parlors that had two or three game cabinets in some dark corner. Tradewest later made home versions of both of these games.
Then there were, of course, the Battletoads games developed first by Rare and published by Tradewest, which led to a partnership that saw Tradewest publishing the US versions of many of their games, including future releases in the Battletoads series, and the RC Pro Am home versions. There are plenty of other notable games too, such as Plok and Troy Aikman NFL Football.
So, what happened to Tradewest? Like so many other dead gaming companies, Tradewest was dissolved as a company when it was purchased by another entity. In this case, it was a company by the name of WMS Industries, Inc., which you likely donít recognize. You will recognize both Williams (an earlier maker of nearly every pinball table in existence) and Midway (whose history could probably span three of these posts), both of which were parts of WMS.
Tradewest was purchased in 1994 by WMS and renamed Williams Entertainment, which essentially acted as the companyís ticket to get into console gaming. This turned out to be a really stupid purchase for the company, as it quickly decided that it wasnít really interested in home console gaming and transferred the division to Midway, where it became Midway Home Entertainment. Confused yet?
As an aside, remember John Rowe and Byron Cook, the two executives of Tradewest? Their future endeavors are nothing short of classic. Rowe stayed in the gaming industry until 2001, at which point he moved on to photography. He has turned into quite the respected photographer of indigenous cultures in Africa and Asia. And Byron Cook? Heís currently a Texas State Representative. From video games to politics, huh?
Anyway, hereís where it gets really crazy. Through all of this business insanity, Midway of course purchased the rights to Tradewestís name. When Midway began to go through bankruptcy a few years ago, the company dropped a bunch of executives, including one by the name of Martin Spiess. Well, just last month, Spiess purchased Midway Games Ltd., which was the UK-based publishing and development branch of Midway, which also, for some reason, owned the Tradewest name. The best part? Spiess decided to call the new company Tradewest Games. Indeed, Tradewest is back.
Itís hard to say at this point what the future of Tradewest is. Could there be new Battletoads in the future? Some entirely new IPs? Only time will tell, but itís great to know that Tradewest lives on. With any luck, the Tradewest name will once again grace the covers of some of our most beloved video game purchases. And, seriously: Give me more Battletoads.