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Classic Bubble Bobble game disk for the Famicom. (Wikimedia Commons / Bryan Ochala Photo)

Vancouver, B.C.-based production studio Liquid Media Group has announced that it has acquired 65 video game properties, many of which are long-abandoned favorites from the 1980s and ’90s, from Toronto-based Throwback Entertainment.

Acquiring the rights and interest in the games means Liquid Media may potentially be involved with the production of reissues, remakes, or sequels to these properties, including classic franchises such as Bust A Move, Bubble Bobble, Kwirk, and NBA Jam.

“Retro gaming is driving incredible success for the world’s largest players, like Sony and Nintendo,” said Charles Brezer, Liquid Media’s director, in a statement issued on Tuesday. “This title acquisition along with our studios’ proven 25+ year track record kicks off Liquid’s growth strategy.”

Recent releases of repackaged classic games, such as the NES Classic and SNES Classic, have proved to be sales successes in the United States, with the NES Classic in particular outselling all other entertainment hardware platforms in June of 2018. Liquid Media’s acquisition comes after last week’s announcement at the Tokyo Game Show of Sony’s forthcoming PlayStation Classic, which promises to open a new, retroactive chapter in the 1990s console wars.

The SNES Classic Edition, coming September 29 for $79.99
The SNES Classic Edition is one of several popular retro gaming systems. (Nintendo Image)

Liquid Media Group Chairman Joshua Jackson (yes, the Joshua Jackson from “The Affair” and “Dawson’s Creek”), said in the press release, “So many people, myself included, are returning to the classics. The nostalgia brought on by this resurgence in retro games connects us to our childhoods – and creates incredible demand.”

Throwback Entertainment received 670,000 shares of stock in Liquid Media in exchange for the licenses, a deal valued at approximately US$1 million.

Many of the games have been in Throwback’s portfolio since 2006, when it acquired over 180 titles from Acclaim Entertainment, a once-prolific third-party publisher that had been forced to declare bankruptcy in 2004. This was in the aftermath of Acclaim spending 20 years developing and/or publishing some of the most awful games on the market, as well as poorly-thought-out schemes such as turning a licensed dirt-bike game into a raunchy sex comedy without asking the people who owned the license. Acclaim did take over publishing duties for many other companies’ titles in its day, however.

It should be noted that many of the 65 games have not been sitting idle for around 20 years for no reason. Some of the acquired titles are notoriously terrible, such as Street Fighter: The Movie, a tie-in product for the 1994 Jean-Claude van Damme flop. Some were removed from the marketplace due to EA Sports’s exclusivity deals with the NBA, NFL, and NHL.

Of the rest, many would present legal complications to Liquid Media before it could work with them at all. Bubble Bobble in particular is the product of the Japanese developer Taito, currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Square Enix, which is distinctly still around and last made a game in the series in 2015. [Liquid Media later clarified what rights it has to some of the titles, such as Bubble Bobble, for an update at the end of this story.]

Just the same, the agreement with Throwback is just one of several big moves that Liquid Media has made this year. It acquired the New Jersey-based Majesco Entertainment (PDF), the studio behind Cooking Mama, in January, and it’s in the pre-production process on two animated films.

In a letter to its shareholders last week, it laid out its plan to consolidate the “fragmented” Vancouver film and television production industries under its roof. Last month, it announced a strategic partnership with the Vancouver-based cloud-rendering firm StratusCore, in which Liquid Media would drive an effort to build new, cloud-accessible facilities, providing cash-strapped production companies with pay-as-you-go access to high-end hardware.

Here’s the full list of acquired properties, provided to GeekWire by Liquid Media’s media relations manager:

  • AD&D: Iron & Blood
  • AFL Live 2003
  • AFL LIVE: Premiership Edition
  • AFL SIM 04
  • AFL Sim 04 (Int’l)
  • All Star Baseball 2000
  • All Star Baseball 2001
  • All Star Baseball 2002
  • All Star Baseball 2003
  • All Star Baseball 2004
  • All Star Baseball 2005
  • All Star Baseball 2006*
  • All Star Baseball ‘97
  • All Star Baseball ‘99
  • Antz Racing
  • Battle Monsters
  • Big Foot
  • Big Hurt Baseball
  • Blast Lacrosse
  • Brain Drain
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Bust A Move 1999
  • Bust A Move 2
  • Bust A Move 4
  • Bust A Move Millennium
  • College Slam
  • Cutthroat Island
  • Cyberoid
  • Darius Gaiden
  • Dirt Trax FX
  • Dragonheart: Fire & Steel
  • Ducati World Racing
  • Foreman For Real
  • Foreman’s KO Boxing
  • Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball
  • Galactic Attack
  • George Foreman KO Boxing
  • Impact Racing
  • Jupiter Strike
  • Killing Zone
  • Kwirk
  • Magic: The Gathering – Battlemage
  • NBA Jam 1999
  • NBA Jam 2000
  • NBA Jam 2001
  • NBA Jam 2002
  • NBA Jam Extreme
  • NFL Quarterback Club
  • NFL Quarterback Club 1996
  • NFL Quarterback Club 1997
  • NFL Quarterback Club 1998
  • NFL Quarterback Club 1999
  • NFL Quarterback Club 2000
  • NFL Quarterback Club 2001
  • NFL Quarterback Club 2002
  • NFL Quarterback Club Challenge
  • NHL Breakaway 1998
  • NHL Breakaway 1999
  • Street Fighter: The Movie
  • Striker
  • Striker 1996
  • Super Bust A Move
  • Tee-Off
  • Virtual Open Tennis
  • Wetrix

Update, Friday, 11:00 a.m. PT: Liquid Media has clarified, through its CFO Daniel Cruz, that it now holds the rights to the specific stock-keeping units (SKUs) of titles that were formerly owned by Throwback and previously Acclaim. For example, Acclaim published the 1996 PC port of Bubble Bobble, and the rights to that specific version of the game have now passed to Liquid, while the overall franchise rights still remain with the original creator Taito.

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