Mastertronic was founded in 1983 by Martin Alper, Frank Herman and Alan Sharam. Much of the early output was supplied by just two producers - the Darling brothers who of course formed Codemasters as soon as they could break their contract with the company, and Mr Chip Software who continued to do games for Mastertronic for some time. In late 1985 Mastertronic launched their MAD label, this stood for 'Mastertronic's Added Dimension' and meant that they could sell these games at a slightly more expensive price. The first ever MAD game was 'The Last V8' and other games on this label included Master Of Magic, Spellbound, Hero Of The Golden Talisman, 180 and more. In 1987 Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson purchased the 45% of shares held by the outside investment group. The remaining 55% was held
by Alper (25%), Herman (20%) and Sharam (10%) and they sold out in 1988 in a highly complex deal which required their continuing involvement in the business and achievement of profit and cashflow targets. The company was renamed the 'Mastertronic Group Ltd', and later was merged with Virgin Games to create 'Virgin Mastertronic'.

Mastertronic also bought out Melbourne House in early 1988 when that label was struggling with financial problems (Melbourne House kept its label identity) - this also meant that they had first refusal on re-releases of games such as Way Of The Exploding Fist. And so their re-release label 'Ricochet' was born. They pulled off a few major re-releases at £1.99, most notably Crazy Comets and Impossible Mission.

It was Frank Herman who, in early 1987 spotted that Sega had no UK distributor for the Master System range. Mastertronic sold all they could get that year and were then appointed as distributors in France and Germany as well, and thus was Sega Europe born. Branson undoubtedly wanted to buy Mastertronic in order to get into the growing Sega business, and by 1991 nearly all the company's turnover, and certainly all the profit, came from Sega business. As a result nearly all the staff moved over to Sega when they bought the business and only a handful of Virgin games programmers stayed with the publishing side (quickly renamed Virgin Interactive Entertainment). By that time the budget business was dying and nobody cared about it. In any case the competition had become intense as everyone was now recycling their old full price games as budget games. And of course the kids who used to buy C64s and Spectrums were now buying Segas and Nintendos.

After the Sega takeover Frank became deputy Managing Director of Sega Europe and Alan was Managing Director of Sega UK. Martin left the UK and became resident in the US.




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