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Taito's next stage

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Taito, the developer of such fixtures of the classic gaming canon as Bubble Bobble and Space Invaders, is now part of Square Enix, and currently one of Japan's leading developers of arcade machines. In the past few years Taito has been developing their new arcade hardware named Type X based on PC architecture, in an effort to shorten development time and facilitate the creation of console games. Square Haven spoke with Takashi (Tak) Naito, senior general manager of Taito about the recent strategies of the company's arcade division.
In 1953, the Taito Corporation was founded by a Russian businessman as an importer and distributor of vending machines. The company branched out into coin-operated pinball machines in the '60s, and introduced their first arcade game in 1973, with one major hit following five years after. Toshihiro Nishikado, a software developer at the company, invented the iconic arcade game, Space Invaders, which became not just a success in sales, but a timeless cultural archetype that would forever be synonymous with coin-operated gaming.

Since the rise to fame met by Space Ivaders in the '70s, Taito developed some truly memorable titles. The great Taito games of the 1980s included Elevator Action (1983) and Bubble Bobble (1985), Arkanoid (1986) and the River City Ransom precursor Renegade (1986). Even into the '90s, the game developer continued to capture the spirit of the 8-bit era. Their Densha-de-go! series was popular in Japan, where not only children, but also many adults, foster the dream of being a railway car conductor. Taito's greatest success was the puzzle game Puzzle Bobble (1994). From the beginning of coin-op gaming to the inception of the 21st century, Taito's had a recognizable corporate identity built around classic casual gaming archetypes.

Taito's triumphs. From left to right:
Space Invaders, Elevator Action, Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble (Bust a Move)

Takashi Naito
Today, less than two years since the company was acquired by Square Enix, Taito continues to follow the thread of the company's original purpose, developing arcade hardware for an industry that is robust when measured against that of the United States. Takashi Naito, as senior general manager of Taito, explained that the company was interested in designing arcade hardware that was compatible with such home consoles as the Playstation 2. As compared with the hardware used by many arcade game designers, PC operating systems were noticeably simpler to develop. The decision was made to use Windows as the foundation for game development, thereby eliminating the need for extra dev tools. "Our challenge was to develop a new arcade board that allows anyone with a personal computer to produce arcade game software," Tak explained. "This is why we were the first in the Japanese arcade game industry to choose the Windows XP Embedded operating system."

Taito's latest arcade shooter Half-Life 2 Survivor has been developed by Valve and is currently available in game centers in Japan. Because the game engine is based on a PC title, Tak explained, adapting the software to the Type X arcade system has been fairly straightforward. "We have our original middleware which enables the transfer of Type X arcade titles into other consoles such as PS2, Wii, as well as XBox 360. We believe this is the most convenient way to develop the game software for consumer consoles, since it doesn't require special development tools."

Since Taito and Square Enix began working together, the companies have begun several collaborative projects, including Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road, a children's arcade title. Reportedly, more joint titles are on the way. Haven will have more news on the involvement of Taito with Square Enix games as it develops.

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