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Press Cuttings - Magazine articles, news stories, letters and ads about Mastertronic

There were a large number of computer-related magazines published in the UK during the 1980s. Some specialised in a particular brand or even a particular model. Others tried to cover all home computers. The vast majority of the content comprised games reviews, hints, walkthroughs and features on upcoming releases, technical hints on programming, accessories and hardware reviews, and (seemingly endless) listings of code for eager amateurs to type in themselves. Amidst all this were news stories which from time to time shed some light on the businesses behind the products and it is these that provide the content for this page.

Heartfelt thanks to archive.org which makes a huge collection of computer magazines freely available. The holy grail of information for this industry was Computer Trade Weekly which, sadly, is not available on archive.org or any other site that I can see. If anyone happens to have any issues between 1984 and 1991 do please let me know

Nearly all of the material is hosted here on Guter.org but where the link has the name of a publication, you will be taken to an external site.

The latest major update was in July 2017, with a number of scans of magazine articles shedding more light on the early history of the company. There were further significant additions between January and April 2018. As far as possible all articles are shown as they appeared. A few have been scanned using OCR and reset to resemble the original as far as html allows.

First issue of Crash deals with Carnell Software - this is interesting in light of what was to happen to that company Feb 84
Home Computing Weekly ("HCW") heralds the dawn of the budget era in what may be the earliest mention of Mastertronic in the press. Apr 84
Will Mastertronic bring down the price of games? wonders Your Computer ("YC"), in a feature that must have been prepared in early April. May 84
Another very early mention of the newcomer to the budget games market in Personal Computer News ("PCN") Apr 84

HCW amends its earlier story and confirms that all Mastertronic games will be £1.99

Apr 84
Computer & Video Games ("C&VG") asks for reaction from the trade to Imagine's enforced price-cutting of hitherto full-priced games. Our future Chairman responds. May 84
Rivals to Mastertronic are observed by HCW, who also report a puzzling deal involving the Darlings. May 84
A full page ad in Popular Computing Weekly ("PCW") for HMV lists all Mastertronic games at that time. Jun 84
A full page ad in colour in Personal Computer Games ("PCG") shows off the "dealer pack" Jun 84
Perhaps as a result of taking the ad noted above, PCG covers a budget newcomer Jun 84
Sinclair User ("SU") notes the birth of Mastertronic. Nice quote from Frank Herman "The other software houses - they hate us." Jun 84
Commodore User ("CU") lets the trade put the case against cut-price games and Martin Alper responds. Jun 84
The first major feature about the company - PCW interviews Martin Alper and some very ambitious plans are revealed. Jul 84
HCW gets the Mastertronic- Darlings relationship sorted out and Martin Alper indulges in a bit of day-dreaming. Jul 84
PCG continues to monitor Mastertronic. Jul 84
SU gives very serious consideration to the way that budget games would change the market and concludes, on balance, that they were a good thing. Jul 84
Problems for Carnell and Rabbit - Opportunities for Mastertronic? PCN thought so. Aug 84
PCN's review of Chiller marks the recognition that budget software could be good quality. Sep 84
SU reports Mastertronic is bailing out Carnell Software. Sep 84
Piracy and the price of games - a readers letter on a popular theme amongst cash-strapped buyers in C&VG. Oct 84
How the computer buyer of a major retailer saw the future of personal computers, according to CPC 464 User. Oct 84
Mastertronic backs down when threatened with legal action over the music in Chiller, as reported both in PCW and HCW. (Lawsuits between competing software houses were frequently reported at this time). Nov 84
An update on Virgin Games and a nice photo of the Vernon Yard entrance, "Mediocre software has become the hallmark of Virgin Games" said SU. Nov 84
The MasterAdventurer label is launched, reports PCW. Nov 84
The arrival of Mastertronic games in North America is reported by InfoWorld Nov 84
Mastertronic takes over the distribution of software from recycler Beau Jolly, says SU. Dec 84
Mastertronic's 1 millionth customer? Or publicity stunt? You decide. PCG bought it. Jan 85
Mastertronic advertises for games and boasts about its American operations in PCW. The ad features Mistertronic. Jan 85
Highly detailed and informative feature in SU explains the way that software was sold from publisher via wholesaler to retailer, and the crucial role of profit margins, advertising and the expectations of store buyers in determining what appeared on the shelves. This article was continued in the April issue Feb 85
A loyal customer rushes to our defence in C & VG. Feb 85
Firebird are reported to be using Mastertronic's distributor Shuttlesoft, said PCW. Mar 85
A full page ad for the C64 disk range promoted by Mastertronic Inc. Apr 85?
A German ad shows a more thoughtful way of presenting the games Apr 85?
Revealing comments about Mastertronic in a review of Locomotion by PCW. May 85
Action Biker is launched with a tie-up with KP Skips.
Jul 85
Full page ad in HCW announces The Tronix Club Jul 85
Fascinating article in SU about how to get a game accepted for publication. Aug 85
The party to launch the MAD label is given good coverage by Crash. Oct 85
PCW also notices the MAD launch but shows no enthusiasm. Oct 85
Mastertronic dabbles with a word processor. Nov 85
Where to buy Mastertronic games, asks a reader in PCW. Jan 86
SU has a serious look at Mastertronic after its first 18 months. Jan 86
YC also puts up a long hard look at the "burgeoning company" which not long since no respectable software wholesaler would have "touched with a barge pole". Jan 86
Mastertronic takes the unusual step of advertising for programmers in PCW. Feb 86
A visit to our offices by Amstrad Action ("AA"). Some nice pics and quotes "the overwhelming impression is that everyone is doing what they should be doing". Glad they thought so. Apr 86
PCW notes a potential stock market launch May 86
99p games? PCW had the story, and a career move for our future Budget Software Manager, Andrew Wright Jun 86
SU also observes the potential financial changes at Mastertronic Jul 86
The growth of the games industry had outstripped the supply of good, and imaginative, programmers. PCW got some thoughtful quotes from some key players, including our very own Alison Beasley. Jul 86
Excellent article in Amstrad User ("AU") with detailed quotes from Martin Alper, Alan Sharam and John Maxwell. Also a picture of the legendary pinball table in the office.

Aug 86

Our very own joystick - the Magnum - is announced, courtesy of PCW. Aug 86
PCW notes that Ariolasoft has been appointed UK distributors for Sega. Sep 86
The birth of Codemasters is announced in PCW. Oct 86
The coming of Sega and Nintendo, as it seemed in mid 1986 to C&VG. Oct 86
A series of rows about the software charts between the industry, retailers and Gallup (who compiled them) smouldered on for months. Three separate news items in PCW capture the atmosphere. Oct 86
Geoff Heath, industry heavyweight with experience of running both Activision and, ironically as it was to turn out, Melbourne House, joins Mastertronic, as PCW reports. Oct 86
Mastertronic threatens a pirate with the law. Oct 86
PCW splashes Mastertronic's takeover of Melbourne House on the front page. Feb 87

Mastertronic's takeover of Melbourne House is explored in detail in Crash. "Though Melbourne House will retain most of its editorial and marketing staff, it looks certain that they will be leaving their delightful HQ in leafy Hampton Wick for Mastertronic's offices, which lie in a rather dingy City sidestreet. However there could be a stay of execution on this move." MH did not retain most of its staff, about half stayed and half left. They did indeed migrate to our dingy street but sadly there was to be no stay of execution. Very soon after the acquisition we closed the Hampton Wick offices As 'liquidators' perks', I acquired a rather smart artificial rubber plant that graced my home for many years until my wife chucked it out in May 2003.

Apr 87

Ten years later Next Generation looked at the takeover, amongst other things, with comments from the one-time boss of MH, Fred Milgrom. Sep 97
The takeover of Melbourne House is also noted by AA but they weren't that interested. Apr 87
Crash discovers what happened to Richard Bielby. Apr 87
We launch Mastersound and Mastervision to an unimpressed Crash. May 87
Crash take a look at the businesses and labels that dominated the software scene and has a nostalgic look at the plethora of smaller firms that had been swallowed up. Jun 87
David Jones, author of Stormbringer was keen to publicise it. AA obliged, up to a point. Jul 87
An advert for Mastersound, in the unlikely surroundings of C&VG. Jul 87
The growth in budget games and the future for software pricing is explored in a major feature in Crash. Oct 87

Will UK software houses develop for consoles, asks The Games Machine, and gets predictable answers.

And in the same issue the tie-up with Hewson that created the Rackit and Rebound labels is given the full treatment

Oct 87

A preview of the Arcadia multi-play arcade cabinet is featured in ACE
The innards of the cabinet may also be seen

Oct 87
Your Commodore ("YCom") looks back two years after the launch of MAD and says nice things about future releases Dec 87
A reader's letter in AA claims to understand the secret of budget software. Dec 87
Virgin buys a slice of Mastertronic, reports The Games Machine. Dec 87
PCW interviews Geoff Heath about tie-ins with fullprice publishers, arcade developments and the prospects for 1988. Dec 87
Should magazines give budget games equal treatment with full price? Fascinating editorial reply to angry readers' letters in Zzap 64. Dec 87
After three years, another full page ad for Mastertronic products, including Sega products for the first time. Fittingly it was in PCW. Dec 87
The first year of Sega Master System sales reported in PCW. Dec 87
PCW report the deal that brought Double Dragon to home computers and mentions Justin Heber, Martin Alper's right hand man out in California with Mastertronic Inc. Dec 87
A tie up with Psygnosis is reported by ACE, plus a preview of Road Wars on Arcadia. Dec 87
A new look for Melbourne House with another Arcadia spin-off, Rockford in a full page ad in ACE. Jan 88
The news that Virgin had bought into Mastertronic reaches ACE a little late. Jan 88
YC has a nice picture of Nick Alexander sitting on a car (why?) to illustrate Virgin's buy-in. Jan 88
Woolworth's ad shows some confusion about what they were selling. Jan 88
A full page ad for the Sega Master System in Zzap64 shows the change in the company's strategic direction. Feb 88
SU latches on to the deal with Technos for Double Dragon and, perhaps, other coin-op conversions. Feb 88
A major deal with Activision for rereleases on the Ricochet label, and news about arcade games licensing through Melbourne House, reports Crash. Mar 88
Two ex-Mastertronic stalwarts defect to long-time budget rivals Prism, according to ACE Sep 88
Exhibiting at the PCW show takes planning, as Rachel Davies reveals. Oct 88
SU reports a batch of Mastertronic games for a new platform - the PC. Dec 88
Who dreamed up the name Continental Circus? SU would like to know. Jan 89
Major article in Crash about Mastertronic, about 6 months after the takeover by Virgin. Interview with budget manager Andrew ("flat-top") Wright about how solo programmers can still achieve success, mentions the "magic postbox", the law of copyright and how contracts work. Also refers to our games tester David George, (who failed to show for work one day and was never heard of again), our ex-sales rep Milan Stajcic who tried to set up a Yugoslavian software house (but never really got very far with it) and the author of Advanced Soccer Simulator, Stephen Hannah. May 89
ACE preview the Magnum Light Gun. Jun 89
If you can't beat em... Mastertronic starts advertising its games just like everyone else. Jul 89
Introducing a T-shirt called Well'Ard, in Crash. Aug 89
The launch of the Magnum Light Gun and some games to fire it at is reported by SU. Aug 89
PCW reports of yet more eager budget publishers, with one familiar name included. Aug 89
Amiga Format notices the launch of the 16-blitz range. Nov 89
A much more detailed look at 16-Blitz and the Virgin Mastertronic new full-price releases from YCom a month later. Dec 89
ACE names the top 50 people in UK games and a few of them are familiar. Jul 91
The end of the budget era, as Tronix replaces Mastertronic. Feb 92
Crash gives some space to newly-born Tronix. Feb 92
Amiga Format looks back and remembers the impact of the first Arcadia games. 1993
Fascinating extract from Richard Branson's book "Losing My Virginity", explains why Virgin bought Mastertronic and why, quite unexpectedly a few years later, they sold the Sega-Europe business to Sega Japan.  

Well well well. After 10 years the Mastertronic name returned to the marketplace. I was impressed that the relaunch is to "adhere to the original Mastertronic core values" ; these can be summed up as making lots of money in a short a time as possible. Believe me on this.

Aug 03
A new magazine for lovers of computing nostalgia, Retro Gamer, prints an 8 page history of Mastertronic with cover inlays of the top 30 bestsellers. My history, that you can read for free on this website if you do not have £5.99 for the mag. Jan 04
Frank Herman joins reborn Mastertronic as Chairman and is quoted with some very familiar ideas about distribution and the revival of the MAD label. Apr 04
An obituary notice to Frank Herman, soon after his death. on the MCV website
and personal tributes from many in the games industry who knew, worked with, were shouted at by, admired and frequently argued with, him.
Apr 09
Martin Alper's death is noted on the website Venturebeat, with a focus on his work leading Virgin Interactive in the USA. Jun 15
MCV lauds Alison Beasley as one of the top 100 women in games. Feb 15
Whoops! The second incarnation of Mastertronic meets a sticky end. Nov 15
Some memories of a time when games were affordable, courtesy of MicroMart. Jul 16
Anthony Olver, of Player1 Books, announced in 2016 a Kickstarter project to create a book showcasing all of Mastertronic's software products. This project has become seriously delayed and fans are advised not to part with any funds in support of the project until it becomes clear that it is back on track. Current