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European official/authorised distributors
Post Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:46 am
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Sega-16: Mastertronic was Sega's major distributor in England, Germany, and France, which helped the Master System greatly. Was this the reason why Sega bought the company in 1991?

Nick Alexander: In 1987 we bought a minority stake in Mastertronic. They needed to raise some cash to pay for the LCs for their first order of Master Systems and we wanted to be in the budget computer game business, which Mastertronic dominated. Sega delivered the shipment too late for Christmas so retailers cancelled their orders, and Mastertronic was tipped into a cash crisis which was resolved by our acquiring the rest of Mastertronic and merging it with Virgin Games to become Virgin Mastertronic, of which I was again Managing Director.

Sega had done the same thing to their other European distributors pushing the French one into financial crisis and the German one, part of Bertelsmann, to decide they did not want to work with Sega anymore. Sega asked us if we would take on these two territories as well, and as by now Ni****do's first successful Christmas in the U.S. was clear, we agreed and did so from mid '88. As Virgin we decided to market the Master System at an older, cooler, teenage user. Ni****do's marketing was aimed more at a family audience with pre-teen kids.

Sega-16: The market in Europe is much different than that of the U.S., and each country is almost like its own territory, with hardware and software experiencing different levels of success in each one. How challenging was it for Sega to broaden the appeal of the Mega Drive throughout Europe?

Nick Alexander: That was probably the most important decision that we took. When the Genesis launched in the U.S., they decided to take the same route, and I believe that was why they drew ahead of a very well established Ni****do in the 16-bit war. It was also how Sony positioned the Playstation when it eventually emerged.

We had one marketing strategy for all Europe but execution varied by territory. Overtime we increasingly centralised our ads and materials. We added Spain in 1990, and in 1991 Sega decided that it would like to have control of their European distribution and they bought the sales, marketing and distribution parts of our business, which I went to run as CEO of Sega Europe. The deal made sense from all points of view. As a third party distributor, it made no sense for Virgin to invest in marketing or product to the extent that Sega Japan (SOJ) wanted. The degree of competitive price pressure also meant that the margins were increasingly unattractive for Virgin.


http://web.archive.org/web/20090410055123/http://www.sega-16.com/feature_page.ph...

I'm trying to piece together the various official Sega distributors for Europe, but need some help filling in the gaps. UK and Germany are already well documented;

UK: 87 Mastertronic>88 Virgin Mastertronic>91 Sega
Germany: 87 Ariolasoft>88 Virgin Mastertronic>91 Sega
France: 87 ???>88 Virgin Mastertronic>91 Sega
Spain: ?? ???>90 Virgin Mastertronic>91 Sega

Who was the original French distributor "Sega pushed into a financial crisis", and who did Virgin Mastertronic take over Spanish distribution from in 1990? Yeno distributed the SC-3000 and software in France up until about 1985, but I'd expect there to be more info if they also distributed the SMS at first.

It seems that Sega never directly distributed in Italy, this site says "NBC Italia" distributed the SMS in Italy for 1987, before "Giochi Preziosi" took over in 1988 and seems to have remained Sega's Italian distributor throughout. The only problem is that Googling "NBC Italia" and Sega brings up only one relevant link, the one posted above. Does anyone have any more information on "NBC Italia"? Melchioni distributed the SC-3000 and software until around 1985.

Quote
Fri, 26 Apr 1996

The move follows Sega's decision earlier this year to close its European headquarters in London and Sega sales operations in Holland, Belgium and Austria, writing off $238m (150m) in the process(MW January 26).


http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/home/mccann-hit-by-20m-sega-blow/2013406.article

So Sega was directly distributing in Benelux and Austria up until the beginning of 1996, but when did they start, and from who? Ariolasoft originally announced in 1986 that they were going to distribute the SMS in Germany, UK, and Netherlands. They obviously never ended up distributing in UK, but how about Netherlands, and maybe Austria too?

Ecofilmes started distribution of Sega products in Portugal from 1991. Were they the first in Portugal, or was there another distributor before them?

That leaves Switzerland and the Nordic countries in Western Europe, I don't really have amuch information about those, so please post if you know anything.
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Post Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:21 am
I can confirm that - as far as I can remember - Giochi Preziosi was the official Sega distributor here in Italy.
If you can point me in the right direction I will be glad to help you with translations of relevant documentation.
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Post Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:41 am
This is all I could find on NBC Italia;

Quote
Il Master System arrivò nel nostro paese alla fine del 1987. Purtroppo però, nonostante le buone conversioni di capolavori quali Space Harrier, Out Run e Afterburner, la distribuzione affidata a NBC Italia fu poco efficiente ed infatti console e giochi erano scarsamente reperibili nei negozi.

Le cose cominciarono a migliorare quando, verso la fine del 1988, la commercializzazione passò in mano a Giochi Preziosi. Grazie ad un'ottima campagna pubblicitaria, con importanti testimonial quali ad esempio Walter Zenga (portiere dell'Inter), nel Natale del 1989 l'Italia fu uno dei pochi paesi in cui le vendite del Master System superarono quelle del Ni****do.


http://gamesearch.it/approfondimenti/sega-master-system
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Post Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:54 pm
It's not easy to look for NBC Italia on Google because the television network with the same acronym tends to clutter up the results :|

Here is a translation of the paragraph you quoted:
Quote
The Master System arrived in our Country by the end of 1987. Sadly, however, despite the good conversions of masterpieces such as Space Harrier, Out Run, and Afterburner, the distribution managed by NBC Italia was quite inefficient and therefore it was hard to find consoles and games into shops.

Things started to get better when, by the end of 1988, Giochi Preziosi took over the commercialisation. Thanks to excellent advertisings, with important spokesmen such as Walter Zenga (goalkeeper of Internazionale FC), during Christmas 1989 Italy was one of the few countries where Master System sales outnumbered NES ones.
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Post Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:17 pm
In 1992 Brio AB (some adverts said "Brio AB/Playmix") had the distribution in at least Sweden possibly some other Nordic countries.
I can't for my life remember what the distributor was before (it was a small company that also imported other electronics, car stereos and such)...
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Post Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:56 am
Thanks for the translation, I guess the original NBC Italia either went out of business or changed name a long time ago.

Can't find a lot on Brio Playmix, but they were still Sega distributors for Sweden in 1994, and also Norway in 1995.

It did lead me to this thread though, where it's posted that "Dennis Bergström Elektronik AB" was the previous distributor.

And this thread has an early advert from Dennis Bergström for April 1988, along with a (dead) link which says the Master System was sold in Sweden since 1987. So it seems likely that Dennis Bergström was the original distributor, but the original 1987 distributors in France, Germany, and Italy all changed in 1988 so it's possible the same happened in Sweden too. Now to find out when Brio Playmix took over from Dennis Bergström, some time between 1988 and 1992.
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Post Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:11 pm
In case you're interested, the official distributor in Greece was Zegetron.

http://www.zegetron.gr/website/showitem.php?docid=110
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Post Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:36 am
gallos_11 wrote
In case you're interested, the official distributor in Greece was Zegetron.

http://www.zegetron.gr/website/showitem.php?docid=110


Thanks, I guess they were the first in Greece?
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Post Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:08 pm
BKK wrote
Thanks, I guess they were the first in Greece?

As far as I know, yes they were the first. Obviously a bit late in comparison with other countries...

But maybe there was an unofficial distributor before Zegetron, because I remember seeing SMS's before 1992 for sure. Or possibly they were the same persons who finally decided to do it officially by making this company in 1992.

I'm not far away from their offices, the next time I drive near I'll check if I can find anything...
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Post Posted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:19 pm
As far as I can remember, in 1989/90, Sega's official distributor in Spain was Erbe Software, under license/agreement with Virgin Mastertronic. I'm guessing Erbe was always Sega's distributor in Spain since the SMS was launched, but I would need to go through my old magazines to see if I can find traces of other possible earlier distributors.

Erbe was a former software developer turned into distributor, which enjoyed some quite glorious times during the late 80's / very early 90's, and was the official distributor for many computer software companies (US Gold, Ocean, Imagine...). Erbe also used to distribute oficially the GameBoy and the SuperNES here in Spain.
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Post Posted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:51 pm
As far as I can remember, at least since 1990 to the Dreamcast era, the SEGA's official distributor in Portugal was Ecofilmes. Don't know exactly when was the Master System first released here officially and who did distributed it.
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Post Posted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:43 pm
thoja wrote
As far as I can remember, in 1989/90, Sega's official distributor in Spain was Erbe Software, under license/agreement with Virgin Mastertronic. I'm guessing Erbe was always Sega's distributor in Spain since the SMS was launched, but I would need to go through my old magazines to see if I can find traces of other possible earlier distributors.

Erbe was a former software developer turned into distributor, which enjoyed some quite glorious times during the late 80's / very early 90's, and was the official distributor for many computer software companies (US Gold, Ocean, Imagine...). Erbe also used to distribute oficially the GameBoy and the SuperNES here in Spain.


That's interesting that they dealt through Virgin Mastertronic, and not directly with Sega. That suggests that they didn't launch in Spain until later once Virgin Mastertronic had become established as the main European distributor. Unless there was a different distributor at first like in some other countries.
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Post Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 11:25 am
Some updates, starting with France, with help from scans of TILT magazine.

TILT #34, dated September 1986 has a report on Summer CES 1986 from June where they say this aboput SMS;

Quote
Cette petite merveille, très proche d'un micro-ordinateur, sera lancée en septembre en Allemagne. La stratégie commerciale pour la France et la Grande-Bretagne ne parait pas encore fixée.


Which Google translates as*;

Quote
This little wonder, very close to a computer, will be launched in September in Germany. Business strategy for France and Britain still does not seem fixed.


*As I'm using Google translate for some of these quotes I'd appreciate it if anyone could point out any translation errors.

Which is quite interesting as this is the same month that Sega announced at CES 1986 for the US release. It seems that Sega intended to ship both PAL and NTSC units in time for a September release in their respective regions.

TILT #43, dated June 1987 has an SMS review which includes;

Quote
Sega, déjà présent en Allemagne, en Espagne et en Italie, attaqué le marché francais avec de grands espoir.

...

Contrairement à ce qui s'est passé ailleurs, Sega n'arrivera pas en retard. Les produits des deux marques devraient être réellement disponibles le 1er juillet pour Sega et vers août pour Ni****do. Mais le vrai combat aura lieu à partir de septembre et, en attendant, les deux camps fourbissent leurs armes.


Translation;

Quote
Sega, already present in Germany, Spain and Italy, attacks the French market with high hopes.

...

Contrary to what happened elsewhere, Sega will not happen late. The products of both brands should really be available July 1 for Sega and to August for Ni****do. But the real battle will take place from September and in the meantime, both sides prepare for battle.


Which suggests that SMS had already been released in those countries by May/June 1987.

TILT #45, dated September 1987 has the first distributor ads from "Master Games Systeme France", the same ad appears in the next few issues.

TILT #48, Special guide to 1988 carries some new ads from Master Games Systeme France, and a Ni****do Vs Sega article which says this about SMS;

Quote
Commercialisée courant juillet et réellement disponible depuis septembre


Translation;

Quote
Marketed during July and actually available since September


So it seems that September 1987 was the actual release month for SMS in France.

TILT #58, dated October 1988 carries news that Master Games Systeme France has been replaced by Virgin as Sega distributor in France, along with UK and Germany.

TILT #60, Special guide to 1989 carries the first ad from Virgin, this time for a specific game - Thunderblade.

TILT #62, dated January 1989 continues this style of ad, this time for Shinobi.

TILT #63, dated February 1989 - ad for Rambo III.

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Post Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 12:13 pm
"Happy Computer" was a computer games section of a German computer magazine that would eventually evolve in to "Power Play" magazine. The earliest scans I found were for the November 1986 issue which has a review of the SMS and the following games;

Action Fighter
Black Belt
Choplifter
Fantasy Zone
Hang-On
My Hero
Transbot
World Grand Prix

There's also a retailer ad which uses the "Programmed insanity" tagline seen in this booklet.

The December issue has an ad from the same retailer, along with another retailer ad listing the games mentioned above and also;

Astro Warrior/Pit Pot
F-16 Fighter
Great Soccer
Pro Wrestling

These are all games which have German variants.

The January 1987 issue features the first ad by Ariolasoft, they use the "Programmed insanity" tagline, and give an address to write to for their booklet (presumably the one linked to above). It says that the free Hang-on bundle is a limited edition to the first 10,000 units. There's also a list of German retailers.

The November 1988 issue of "ASM" or "Aktueller Software Markt" reports on Virgin having taken over distribution from September.
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Post Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 5:53 pm
What I can tell about Finland is that ads with Sonic "coming soon" name PlayMix.
Older (1990?) ad says importer: Oy PCI-Data Ab.
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Post Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 2:51 pm
Kaunisto wrote
What I can tell about Finland is that ads with Sonic "coming soon" name PlayMix.
Older (1990?) ad says importer: Oy PCI-Data Ab.


Thanks, I didn't know about PCI-Data before.

Here's some scans of "Video Giochi" magazine.

The November 1986 issue has an overview of the SMS and says NBC Italia had announced a November 1986 release for SMS in Italy. I think it's the first confirmation of a 1986 release for SMS in Italy, although it's not too surprising as Italy also has early variants like Germany. As Australia has them too I wonder if SMS also released in Australia in 1986, and who was the original distributor there? It lists these games;

Action Fighter
Astro Warrior/Pit Pot
Black Belt
Choplifter
F-16 Fighter
Fantasy Zone
Ghost House
Hang-On
Marksman Shooting / Trap Shooting / Safari Hunt
My Hero
Teddy Boy
Transbot
World Grand Prix

February 1987 issue has a report from the International Toy Fair held from Jan 29 - Feb 3 in Milan. They mention several upcoming games, the Control Stick, and interestingly the Sports Pad, along with a picture of it. This was never released in Europe, although I guess it brings up the possibility that NBC Italia may have imported some.

On the subject of unreleased European hardware, the October 1988 issue of TGM Italy has a letter which asks about the "Sega Graphic Board" which was mentioned in a supplement of the October 1987 issue of "BIT" magazine. This was also mentioned in the Ariolasoft booklet, although I couldn't find any scans from that issue of BIT.
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Post Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 11:24 pm
Some more details on Spain with help from "Micro Mania" magazine. It's primarily a computer magazine, and doesn't have anything about SMS until the June 1987 issue where there's a 3 page ad by distributor "PROEIN". It seems it released in Spain after Germany/Italy, but before France/UK. They advertise in the next few issues, and there's also a page or two of SMS "reviews". These seem like they might be undeclared ads to me though.

July: Teddyboy, Ghost House, World Grand Prix
August: Black Belt, Choplifter, My Hero
September: Fantasy Zone, Super Tennis, Transbot
October: Alex Kidd, Action Fighter

The last PROEIN ad appears in the December 1987 issue.

August 1989 has news on Virgin's recent deal with Sega to become European distributor for all Sega products.

December 1989 has news that Erbe became the new Spanish distributor for Sega consoles in October.

January 1990 has the first ad from Erbe, under license from Virgin Mastertronic as mentioned by Thoja previously. They even have the Virgin Mastertronic "Do me a favour" TV.

December 1990 has news about a meeting between Virgin Mastertronic Espana and Sega.

July 1991 issue has not only the first Erbe ad for Game Boy, but also their last for Sega.

August 1991, ad now just has Virgin Mastertronic, and no mention of Erbe.

September 1991, another change. Post Sega takeover of Virgin Mastertronic sees the first Sega and Game Gear ad.

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Post Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:45 pm
I've been looking for more info.


OY PCI-Data Ab was likely a small Finnish company. Before SMS they seem to have been importer of Commodore 64 and Amiga.

I have one new name, "Sanura Suomi Oy" (or "Sanura-Suomi Oy"). Pelit Spring 1989 (see my Finnish reviews topic) names them importer for SMS. MikroBitti 11/89 has SMS ad with "Sanura Viihdeosasto(=Entertainment department)".
Sanura Suomi was also importer for Sanyo PCs, as well as some chess computers.

I suspect PCI-Data became the importer 1990 when MegaDrive got here (MB9/90 article introducing the new MD names PCI-Data; another article says they started importing MD "halfway August"). After that... to PlayMix with GG, 1991?
I see PlayMix had imported toys for years, a comic (March-April/1988) has ad for "Starcom" toy series.


One article does claim SMS would've arrived to Finland 1987, but I don't think there was an official importer that early. I don't know how long SMS was supported here, but last catalogue I have is Spring 1993 showing Sonic 2, Lemmings, Taz-mania and Asterix; those may have been last imported games.
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Post Posted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:04 am
Nice finds, Sanura Suomi still seems to be around today, but I couldn't find much about their days as Sega distributor. It seems that PCI-Data went bankrupt at the end of 1990, so they seem to have only been the distributor for a short period. From what I can tell Brio/PlayMix took over distribution in Sweden from Dennis Bergström in 1990, so I guess they were the most obvious company to take over after PCI-Data went under.

I notice that the early European distribution deals seem to have been signed at the CES shows in America of which two were held every year, Summer CES held during June in Chicago, and Winter CES held in January in Las Vegas.

Here's a piece about Kenneth Klingborg who was with Dennis Bergström at the time.

Translation:
Quote
Klingborg in brief

Has been involved in launching three different console formats in Sweden:

Sega Master System (8-bit), SNES and Playstation.
Started by Dennis Trading 1985/86 is actually selling PC games, but Kenneth went to Las Vegas and came home with a contract for the distribution of Sega's 8-bit console. Success.

Then sellers tied to Ni****do for a few at the launch of the Super Ni****do 1992nd Employed by Sony Entertainment in 1995 for the launch of PlayStation in the same year. But Sony felt that game was too risky and put the job at Egmont here as distributed Sony's fi lmtitlar. Kenneth stayed with Egmont to 1997 when he was two years worked at Bonnier Multimedia.

Since September 1999 he Nordic manager at Konami.


That would most likely be Winter CES, January 1987.

When Sega closed it's Benelux and Austrian subsidiaries in 1996 it also closed down Sega Denmark, and FunWare took over. Brio didn't actually get the distribution for Denmark until the Dreamcast launched in 1999.

Quote
SEGA CLOSES SUBSIDIARY
Tuesday 12 March 1996 | 00:00 CET | News
Sega Denmark, subsidiary of Sega, video games giant, has closed down, raising the number of Sega closures in 1996 to four. Sega of Europe, company set up on 01 March 1996, has named FunWare as sole distributor in Denmark, effective immediately. FunWare now handles about 70% of total sales into retail.


So I still don't have any details on who were the distributors during the late 80s and early 90s for Denmark or Norway.

It does seem that Brio discontinued the SMS earlier than some other countries, this thread which has a near complete list of Brio SMS releases is missing most of the 1994/1995 releases. The only one I noticed was Winter Olympics which would have released early 1994 or possibly late 1993.
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Post Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:47 pm
Some new info about spanish distribution. A scan from a newspaper of 1987, with a master system ad, stating proein as the company in charge of distribution

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:39 pm
Micronews #12 - July/August 1988 has an SMS ad from Swiss distributor "Logicosoftware".

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:47 pm
Found this Zegetron registration card in a (way too expensive) master system 2 pack on ebay while randomly searching for tec toy games.
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