On July 2nd, 1990, Mediagenic, Inc. made an excited announcement: they had been selected by Nintendo as the first authorized American developers for Nintendo’s upcoming 16-bit video game system. Even better, they announced their first three titles would be an air combat simulator, a BattleTech simulation, and a sports game. Finally, at least two of those three announced titles were going to use 3D filled polygons for graphics, marking a first for home consoles. Wait a minute, who the hell is “Mediagenic, Inc” anyway? And what did they contribute to the Super Nintendo? Hit the jump and find out, loyal readers!
The truth is, you don’t know “Mediagenic, Inc” as a company because they achieved far greater prominence once they changed their name back to “Activision” in 1992. The other reason you don’t recognize them in regards to the Super Nintendo is because they didn’t publish a single piece of software for the system under the Mediagenic, Inc brand. While they were the first US company granted the right to develop for the new console, and they were publishing SNES games by 1992, it wasn’t until 1994 they actually created a piece of software for the system (Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure for those of you keeping score).
That isn’t to say Activision wasn’t involved at all on the Super Nintendo. While they never did deliver either the flight sim or the sports game they originally announced, they did partner up with Australian programming house Beam Software to get MechWarrior into stores in May of 1993. The BattleTech game eventually arrived too–in October of 1995, courtesy of developer Malibu Interactive.
Sadly the rest of Activision’s SNES attributions look pretty sad. Aside from the afore-mentioned Pitfall, the only other title Activision developed for Nintendo’s console was a version of the tile-matching casual game Shanghai, and even this was published by outsider Sunsoft. Other titles published by Activision for the system were a reviled side-scrolling fighter (Alien vs. Predator), a strictly average space-themed shooter (BioMetal), and two forgettable side-scrolling platformers (Radical Rex and X-Caliber 2097).
While it’s a shame Activision never really seemed to get much traction out of being the first US developer on the Super Nintendo, it’s also useful to remember they really came into their own as a publisher once the PlayStation rolled around. Massive franchises such as Tony Hawk, Skylanders, Guitar Hero and Call of Duty kept Activision on the map even when other publishing houses were closing their doors. So don’t feel bad for them–they might have squandered a golden opportunity in the early 1990s, but they’re still around today. Even if they aren’t so Mediagenic.