SNK Reborn as SNK Playmore--2001 and Beyond
Piecing SNK Back Together
This is the story of how SNK came back from the ashes.
In August 2001, not long before SNK officially dissolved into bankruptcy, former founder and CEO Kawasaki started up a new company, called Playmore, and quickly purchased the intellectual property rights to King of Fighters, Metal Slug, and the majority of other former SNK properties from the companies that Aruze had sold them to. Soon after that, Playmore acquired BrezzaSoft. What Kawasaki had done, one step at a time, was to piece the old SNK back together again. All that was missing was the name. Closing out 2001 and throughout 2002, Playmore would produce software for the NeoGeo AES/MVS systems, as well as port many of SNK's popular games to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast consoles.
Kawasaki would eventually have his revenge on Aruze, in a manner of speaking. After SNK went bankrupt and Playmore acquired the rights to SNK's intellectual properties, Aruze went on to develop Pachinko games using SNK's trademark characters. Needless to say, the appearances of Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, and the Metal Slug tank in games like Bakuchi, Aruze Kingdom 7, and Ire-Gui were completely unauthorized by Playmore. On October 28, 2002, Playmore filed a trademark and copyright action for damages in Osaka District Court alleging that Aruze was infringing upon Playmore's trademarks and copyrights concerning the use of SNK properties in Aruze's Pachinko machines. All told, Playmore claims more than 6.2 billion yen in damages, which amounts to roughly $58.5 million. In January 2004, a preliminary decision was handed down by the Osaka District Court determining that Aruze unlawfully used SNK Playmore-owned trademarks following its sale of those trademarks. A final decision and the awarding of damages are still pending.
Thanks to Playmore, SNK also reopened operations in North America. In December 2002, SNK NeoGeo USA Corporation was formed, with the purpose of marketing the company's arcade games in the US and Canada. Shortly after that, SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation was set up to handle marketing and distribution of the company's games for home consoles such as the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance. In a fitting twist of fate, Ben Herman, VP of sales for SNK Entertainment Inc. until the June 2000 pullout, was asked to come back and become the president of SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation. Herman had been working as a regional sales manager for Nintendo but found the opportunity to take the helm at his former employer too tempting to pass up.
The newly formed US-based SNK companies made their first public appearance at the 2003 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. There, SNK NeoGeo USA Corporation announced its intention to restart MVS distribution in the United States. That meant that arcade operators could purchase King of Fighters 2002 as well as the upcoming SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom, Metal Slug 5, and Samurai Shodown 5.
As for SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation (man, that's a lengthy name)--company president Ben Herman was proud to announce the impending release of the King of Fighters 2000/2001 double pack for the PlayStation 2, as well as the intention to release home versions of Metal Slug 3 and SVC Chaos later on. The King of Fighters 2000/2001 pack is out now, but Metal Slug 3 has met with resistance from Sony Computer Entertainment America's concept approval department. SCEA has a long history of denying licenses on 2D-based games. Goemon, Dodonpachi, and Soul Hackers are but a few of the many games denied a US release by the company's approval department, despite the fact that these and the majority of other rejected titles were released in Japan without incident.