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Creator / Midway Games
aka: Bally

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Originally an American distributor, the company later produced games that served as rivals to the major Japanese arcade game companies.

Midway Manufacturing, later Bally/Midway, and eventually Midway Games was an American company formerly known for being a major Arcade Game manufacturer, Pinball creator, and Video Game publisher and developer.

The oldest predecessor of the company was Bally Manufacturing, founded in 1932 by Raymond Moloney in Chicago as a subsidiary of Lion Manufacturing. The runaway success of Gottlieb's Baffle Ball prompted Lion to get into the business, and Bally was named after their first pinball table, Ballyhoo. The company also had success in making mechanical arcade games, vending machines, and eventually slot machines They even operated their own record label for a while in the mid-1950s to latch onto the burgeoning jukebox industry.

Founded in 1958, Midway Manufacturing Co. began as a manufacturer of amusement equipment, such as pinball tables, shooting games, and puck games. Like Bally, it was also based in the Chicago area (as were most major pinball manufacturers of the time).

Bally, meanwhile, dominated the industry in the Fifties and Sixties; by the end of the decade, after cornering the worldwide slot machine market, Bally became a publicly traded company and acquired Midway Manufacturing in 1969. The amusement games segments were combined as Bally/Midway, while Bally Manufacturing proper focused on slot machines and even got into casino ownership when gambling was legalized in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

As Bally/Midway, the amusement machine division continued to prosper in mechanical arcade games and pinball, and expanded into the new field of arcade video games. Through the Seventies, they formed a close alliance with Taito, and the two companies regularly licensed their games to each other. Bally/Midway also released the Bally Astrocade in 1977, an early home video game system.

Bally/Midway's big video game success came in 1978 with the popularity of Taito's Space Invaders; they followed that up by successfully distributing many of Namco's arcade games, such as Galaxian, Galaga and Pac-Man, the defining game of the era. Their biggest coup was taking a Pac-Man clone named Crazy Otto and giving it a graphical conversion to create Ms. Pac-Man. For nearly a decade, Bally/Midway was the leading producer of arcade video games in the United States. They were also the second-most prolific producer of pinball machines, surpassed only by Williams Electronics.

The success of Ms. Pac-Man, which Bally/Midway had released while waiting for Namco to finish its official sequel Super Pac-Man, led Namco to add Ms. Pac-Man to their line-up of official Pac-Man games. Bally/Midway would take advantage of that success by creating more of their own Pac-Man sequels without seeking Namco's approval or input, none of which enjoyed the success of Ms. Pac-Man. This led to Namco ending their relationship with Bally/Midway and working with Atari Games and later establishing their own brand presence in the North American market.

With the decline of arcade gaming in the mid-80s, Bally Manufacturing sold Bally/Midway to Williams, which also had their own video game unit with big hits like Defender and Joust under their wing, in 1988. For a decade, the Williams/Bally/Midway group, renamed WMS Industies after their stock ticket symbol, continued to manufacture pinball machines under the Williams and Bally labels and video games under the Midway brand.note 

In the early 90s, Midway had a string of major arcade hits, lead by two types of games in particular: Fighting games which used arcades' more advanced hardware to make photorealistic (and over-the-top violent) graphics like Mortal Kombat (one of the defining hits of the decade) and War Gods, and in-your-face arcade-style sports games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. Meanwhile, parent WMS Industries followed Bally into the casino equipment business, while still maintaining the pinball business.

Up until the mid-90s, they avoided directly publishing in the home market, instead licensing their games out to other companies to port; most notably there was a deal with Acclaim that gave Acclaim right-of-first-refusal on porting Midway titles. This changed in 1994 when WMS Industries bought Tradewest (which was breifly renamed Williams Entertainment before becoming Midway Home Entertainment) to serve as their own home console publisher. WMS also acquired Atari Games Corp. (the original Atari's arcade division) from Warner Bros. (which had reassumed control) in 1996.

In 1998, WMS's success in casino equipment eventually prompted them to spin-off the video game division as Midway Games, with Midway also getting the Williams video game library, while the Bally/Midway pinball copyrights stayed with WMS. WMS shut down the Williams pinball division a year later to focus on the casino business.note 

Unfortunately, the Turn of the Millennium also brought bad business policies. Midway exited the arcade industry in 2001 in an effort to return to profitability (a group of departed employees led by Cruis'n series creator Eugene Jarvis would form a new company, Raw Thrills, as a Spiritual Successor to the arcade unit) and two years later shut down their Bay Area studio, Midway Games West – the former Atari Games – effectively killing the last remaining remnant of the original Atari. They also began expensive buyouts of independent game developers to expand their market share. None of these moves helped Midway in any way, and the only way Midway could operate at accelerated losses was through debt offerings that came at the expense of their stock price.

You can imagine how well that went. In November 2008, Midway was expelled from the New York Stock Exchange after their stock price fell below $1, leaving them flat-out broke. Despite the generally favorable critical and commercial reception towards Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, it wound up being their final in-house title (Wheelman, the last video game Midway had any involvement in, was published in North America by Ubisoft).

In February 2009, Midway Games filed for bankruptcy. Their studios in Chicago, Seattle and San Diego were the only three not to get shut down. The former two, along with most of the Midway back catalog (save for the licensed sports titles – for obvious reasons– and the Cruis'n series of racing games, which is owned by Nintendo)note , were bought by Warner Bros., with the Chicago studio rebranded as NetherRealm Studios and the Seattle studio merged into Monolith Productions, both in 2010. The San Diego studio, which came from the Tradewest purchase, was bought by THQ and rebranded THQ Digital Studio San Diego; it ultimately closed down in 2011 due to THQ's own troubles.

Some of the pinball machines manufactured by Bally (pre-Williams acquisition):

Some of the video games developed or distributed by Bally/Midway (pre-1988)

Video games licensed, developed or published by Midway (post-1988)

Alternative Title(s): Bally, Bally Midway, Midway