Press Coverage – 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 so more coverage can be added, please get in touch through the Contact Form.
Most of the press coverage listed below will be reproduced here on this site by way of magazine scans, but where the link has the name of a publication, you will be taken to an external site.
Where possible, coverage is listed in the order in which it appeared.
– Anthony Guter
Updated: 17th February 2024
|First issue of Crash deals with Carnell Software – this is interesting in light of what was to happen to that company
|Home Computing Weekly (“HCW”) heralds the dawn of the budget era in what may be the earliest mention of Mastertronic in the press.
|Another very early mention of the newcomer to the budget games market in Personal Computer News (“PCN”)
|Will Mastertronic bring down the price of games? wonders Your Computer (“YC”), in a feature that must have been prepared in early April.
|HCW amends its earlier story and confirms that all Mastertronic games will be £1.99
|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.
|Rivals to Mastertronic are observed by HCW, who also report a puzzling deal involving the Darlings.
|A full page ad in Popular Computing Weekly (“PCW”) for HMV lists all Mastertronic games at that time.
|A full page ad in colour in Personal Computer Games (“PCG”) shows off the “dealer pack”
|Perhaps as a result of taking the ad noted above, PCG covers a budget newcomer
|Sinclair User (“SU”) notes the birth of Mastertronic. Nice quote from Frank Herman “The other software houses – they hate us.”
|Commodore User (“CU”) lets the trade put the case against cut-price games and Martin Alper responds.
|The first major feature about the company – PCW interviews Martin Alper and some very ambitious plans are revealed.
|HCW gets the Mastertronic- Darlings relationship sorted out and Martin Alper indulges in a bit of day-dreaming.
|PCG continues to monitor Mastertronic.
|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.
|Problems for Carnell and Rabbit – Opportunities for Mastertronic? PCN thought so.
|PCN’s review of Chiller marks the recognition that budget software could be good quality.
|SU reports Mastertronic is bailing out Carnell Software.
|Piracy and the price of games – a readers letter on a popular theme amongst cash-strapped buyers in C&VG.
|How the computer buyer of a major retailer saw the future of personal computers, according to CPC 464 User.
|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).
|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.
|The MasterAdventurer label is launched, reports PCW.
|The arrival of Mastertronic games in North America is reported by InfoWorld
|Mastertronic takes over the distribution of software from recycler Beau Jolly, says SU.
|Mastertronic’s 1 millionth customer? Or publicity stunt? You decide. PCG bought it.
|Mastertronic advertises for games and boasts about its American operations in PCW. The ad features Mistertronic.
|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.
|A loyal customer rushes to our defence in C & VG.
|Firebird are reported to be using Mastertronic’s distributor Shuttlesoft, said PCW.
|A full page ad for the C64 disk range promoted by Mastertronic Inc.
|A German ad shows a more thoughtful way of presenting the games
|Revealing comments about Mastertronic in a review of Locomotion by PCW.
|Action Biker is launched with a tie-up with KP Skips.
|Full page ad in HCW announces The Tronix Club
|Fascinating article in SU about how to get a game accepted for publication.
Link Coming Soon
|The party to launch the MAD label is given good coverage by Crash.
|PCW also notices the MAD launch but shows no enthusiasm.
|Mastertronic dabbles with a word processor.
|Where to buy Mastertronic games, asks a reader in PCW.
|SU has a serious look at Mastertronic after its first 18 months.
|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”.
|Mastertronic takes the unusual step of advertising for programmers in PCW.
|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.
|PCW notes a potential stock market launch
|99p games? PCW had the story, and a career move for our future Budget Software Manager, Andrew Wright
|SU also observes the potential financial changes at Mastertronic
|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.
|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.
|Our very own joystick – the Magnum – is announced, courtesy of PCW.
|PCW notes that Ariolasoft has been appointed UK distributors for Sega.
|The birth of Codemasters is announced in PCW.
|The coming of Sega and Nintendo, as it seemed in mid 1986 to C&VG.
|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.
|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.
|Mastertronic threatens a pirate with the law.
|PCW splashes Mastertronic’s takeover of Melbourne House on the front page.
|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.
|The takeover of Melbourne House is also noted by AA but they weren’t that interested.
|Crash discovers what happened to Richard Bielby.
|We launch Mastersound and Mastervision to an unimpressed Crash.
|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.
|David Jones, author of Stormbringer was keen to publicise it. AA obliged, up to a point.
|An advert for Mastersound, in the unlikely surroundings of C&VG.
|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.
|Ten years later Next Generation looked at the takeover, amongst other things, with comments from the one-time boss of MH, Fred Milgrom.
|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.
|Frank Herman joins reborn Mastertronic as Chairman and is quoted with some very familiar ideas about distribution and the revival of the MAD label.
|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.
|Martin Alper’s death is noted on the website Venturebeat, with a focus on his work leading Virgin Interactive in the USA.
|MCV lauds Alison Beasley as one of the top 100 women in games.
|Whoops! The second incarnation of Mastertronic meets a sticky end.
|Some memories of a time when games were affordable, courtesy of MicroMart.
|Anthony Olver, of Player1 Books, announced a Kickstarter project in 2016 to create a book showcasing all of Mastertronic’s software products. This project ground to a halt in 2018; Olver has ceased to respond to any enquiries and has stolen the money (approx AUD $36,000) put up by backers. He also failed to deliver on two other Kickstarter projects, with a combined total for all three of over $80,000 AUD.
Any information about his whereabouts and current identity would be appreciated. Any other project he promotes should be considered a criminal scam.
|Issue 199 of Games™ publishes a feature in their retro section entitled “The Retro Guide To… Mastertronic” which also features an interview with Ste Pickford about his work on Feud, along with collector Simon Plumbe and the Mastertronic Collectors Facebook Group. An extract from the article can be found on the Zinio website, where a digital copy of the full magazine can be purchased.
|Retro Hour Podcasts interviews me, covering many of the key points in Mastertronic’s history that you can read about in more detail on this site. If you wish to hear me blathering on under the gentle probing of Dan Wood then click the link.
|Keen collector Colin Poole advised that he was working on a book featuring all of Mastertronic’s C64 titles, together with publicity material and photos of memorabilia. I assisted Colin with some of the background information. In March 2022, Fusion Retro Books announced a Kickstarter project to bring the book to fruition. The project was fully funded within 24 hours and was published in July, with a foreword written by yours truly, but don’t let that put you off buying it
For over a decade, this section was originally curated by Anthony Guter who compiled almost 100 press cuttings which will be featured here. We will continue to expand this section over time in addition to Anthony’s hard work.
As Mastertronic is still receiving coverage in the press today, long after the company’s demise we will endeavour to add as much to this on a regular basis.