Mastertronic’s Data Plus C15 Cassette – A Not-So-Firm Stance On Piracy?

One thing that was rife back in the 1980s was software piracy. It was regarded by many to be common practice – you buy a game, get it home and play it, and then take a copy in to school the following day for each of your friends safe in the knowledge that they’d do the same for you with whatever game they would purchase.

It’s Easy Being A Pirate

It certainly wasn’t difficult to do. Music systems and portable stereos with twin cassette decks were common place so virtually every household had everything needed to copy every game released on the high street and no-one gave it a second thought. Looking back, the impact on the industry must have been devastating. The latest games were obviously in demand but was it a case of gamers spending their money elsewhere or could they genuinely only afford a limited number of games?

Firing Blanks

What was incredibly bizarre at the time was something that the software publishers themselves did. Even to this day this still astonishes me. Despite the reduced reliability, we’re all familiar with the idea of cramming as many games as possible onto C90 cassettes but for the most part, people opted to use the shorter C15 cassettes. There were an astonishing number of brands ranging from high street chains such as WHSmiths and Boots, known audio brands such as TDK and Memorex and firm favourites such as AmSoft and EMI.

It was strange enough seeing companies like WHSmiths and Boots seling blank tapes in their games departments. Surely someone in these companies must have known that every blank tape sold meant a lost game sale? But those weren’t the strangest suppliers of blank cassettes on the market…

Mastertronic’s Data Plus

You would want to believe that software publishers would want to actively discourage software piracy and go to great lengths to ensure that gamers have as few opportunities as possible to copy their games. But instead many of them chose to work with cassette manufactures and released their own branded blank cassettes! Tapes were released from the likes of US Gold, Anirog and even Mastertronic decided to get in on the act with their Data Plus cassette.

While these are products that were seldom discussed by the companies themselves, to a degree you can understand the logic behind them. With easy access to dual cassette decks at home, there was no way to stop people from copying 8-bit games. But by releasing their own tapes, at least publishers could get some income back, even if indirectly.

Strange Collectibles

Now attitudes of collectors have changed with regards to the 8-bit and 16-bit era. While many play the old games under emulation on PCs, consoles and emulation-based arcade cabinets, we’re all in a generally better position to be able to afford the games we used to play when we were younger and do collect the older tapes and disks. So now we look for the curiosities and stranger items to buy… and that’s lead to a growing interest in blank cassettes!

The brand doesn’t seem to matter but collectors are on the lookout for new (and even used) C15 tapes covering most brands but if you ever come across the elusive Data Plus tapes it’s worth holding onto one of the more uncommon pieces of Mastertronic history.


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