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Tengen, Inc. records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 114.tengen
The Tengen Inc. records document Atari Games’ brief and unsuccessful foray into console gaming. Materials include correspondence, photographs, assembly drawings, schematics, artwork, promotional material, and source code floppy disks. A sizeable portion of this collection covers marketing and publicity in the form of sell sheets, catalogs, and posters. The materials are dated between 1985 and 1995, with the bulk of the materials from 1987-1994 (the period of operation for Tengen). Many of the materials are oversized. Folders marked with an asterisk (*) have been treated for prior water damage but should be handled with gloves as a precaution.

The Tengen, Inc. records are arranged into five series, two of which have been further divided into subseries. The collection is housed in three full map cases and four archival document boxes. The map cases are located in a storage area separate from the library and archives space, so please allow additional time for retrieval by staff members.


  • 1985 - 1995
  • Majority of material found within 1987 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

At this time, digital files in this collection are limited to on-site researchers only. It is possible that certain formats may be inaccessible or restricted.

Please see The Strong's Digital Games Files Access Policy here .

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) have not been transferred to The Strong.


102 Linear Feet (4 boxes, 43 flat file drawers)


The Tengen, Inc. records contain artwork, promotional and trade show materials, posters, correspondence, photographs, assembly drawings, and schematics. A sizeable portion of this collection covers marketing and publicity in the form of sell sheets. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1987 and 1994.

Historical Note

Tengen, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Atari Games, was a video game company that produced home console games based on Atari arcade games. Tengen operated between 1987 and 1994.

Atari, Inc. was established in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. In 1977, Atari entered the home console market with its Video Entertainment System, and Bushnell sold his majority share of the company to Warner Brothers. In 1984, Jack Tramiel, the former head of Commodore, acquired the home and computer division of Atari from Warner, renaming the company Atari Corporation. Soon after, Warner sold its 60% majority share of the coin-op division to Namco. Namco subsequently renamed the arcade division Atari Games. As part of a deal Warner made with Tramiel, Atari Games could not create hardware or software that competed with Atari Corporation under the Atari name.

In 1987, Atari Games formed a subsidiary called Tengen, which would produce licensed games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and other home consoles. Tengen ran into legal trouble with Nintendo in 1988 following attempts to circumvent Nintendo’s strict licensing agreements by mimicking the NES code, so that their unauthorized games could be played on the NES. After Nintendo blocked Tengen from selling these unlicensed games, Tengen sued Nintendo for unfair competition; Nintendo countersued Tengen for copyright and patent infringement. Tengen lost its legal battle against Nintendo in 1994.

Despite Tengen’s years-long, public skirmish with Nintendo, it produced games for several different consoles, including the Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and TurboGrafx-16. In 1994, Time Warner purchased a controlling share of Atari Games, consolidating both Atari Games and Tengen into Time Warner Interactive.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Promotional materials, 1986-1993

Subseries A: Sell sheets
Subseries B: Trade show materials and catalogs
Subseries C: Posters
Subseries D: Promotional artwork

Series II: Artwork, 1985-1995

Subseries A: Box artwork
Subseries B: Manual artwork

Series III: Assembly drawings and schematics, 1988-1994

Series IV: Corporate stationery, 1986-1988

Series V: Floppy disks, 1988-1991

Custodial History

The Tengen Inc. records were acquired by The Strong in June 2014 from Scott Evans as part of the larger Atari Coin-Op Division records [Object ID 114.6238] The Tengen records were separated from the larger group of Atari records in 2015.

Revision Note

Additional Tengen materials added in September 2016.

Processed by

Tyler Kassten, September-December 2015; Dane Flansburgh and Julia Novakovic, January 2016



Tengen, Inc records
Tyler Kassten, Dane Flansburgh, and Julia Novakovic
January 2016
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)