For over 25 years, Mastertronic has been responsible for bringing some the biggest titles to market and worked with some industry icons.
MCV offers a comprehensive tour through the company’s origins and greatest hits.
APRIL 1ST 1988
The Producers was formed by ex Activision-exec Andy Wood, Andy Payne and ex-EA exec Mark Tilson and located in distributor USD’s offices in Wimbledon. It was set up as a service company that would manufacture and distribute games all over the world. Geoff Payne joined to run the accounts. The firm’s first client was Rainbird, part of Telecomsoft, requesting 50,000 Starglider II soundtrack cassettes.
The Producers invented the two-piece base and lid Mini Softbox, which replaced the A5 box. It then supplied Beau Jolly, Palace Software, CRL, Elite Systems, Domark, Thalamus and Empire. It also worked on the launch of System 3’s Last Ninja 2, run by Mark Cale, for new publisher Activision, run by Rod Cousens.
Activision’s Xmas No.1 After Burner was manufactured by The Producers.
The company relocated to the premises of Imediat, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, run by former Melbourne House boss Martin Corrall. It also handled the refurb of Megadrives for Virgin Mastertronic.
A deal is cut with the new Activision to make all Commodore Amiga OEM bundles for Europe. This Activision is based in Paris and run by Howard Marks, Keith Moore and a young Bobby Kotick.
Accolade – The Producers’ first major US publishing client – signed the company to make 16-bit SKUs of Muscle Cars, Test Drive and Elvira. Gary Winter joined the team.
The Producers is appointed by Mindscape, run by Geoff Heath, to manufacture its range of games. The first project: Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top O’Fun – the product manager for which was a young Phil Harrison.
The firm won the contract to manufacture Manchester United: The Game – a faded and struggling football club at the time – for Krisalis Software. In excess of 250,000 units were manufactured.
The Producers moves into its own manufacturing facility in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.
SCi – later to become Eidos – calls on the firm to help bring SWIV out on 16-bit formats. The team also works with LucasArts to bring The Secret of Monkey Island and Battle of Britain to Europe.
SCi gives The Producers its first SNES packaging and fulfilment assignment: Double Dragon III. All of the creative is hand delivered to Kyoto – Andy’s first trip to Japan. Other launches included Commanche: Maximum Overkill for Novalogic.
European Computer User (ECU) – a direct to consumer mail order mag – is launched and The Producers agrees to work with Chris Roberts at CES on Strike Commander.
It also teams up with Intelek, a small indie team of three developers in Bournemouth – two of which were brothers. Intelek wanted to make a football game and sell it direct via adverts in Amiga and Atari ST magazines because its publisher did not want to publish it. The name of the game was Championship Manager Italia.
The Producers also launched Peter Gabriel’s Xplora 1 – the first ever interactive music CD – and was the launch partner for Renegade’s Sensible World of Soccer.
Mark Tilson leaves The Producers. Meanwhile, Sports Interactive was set up by those two brothers Oliver and Paul Collyer along with Miles Jacobson. The Producers sets up an internal creative services team, later to be Fink Creative.
Maxis appoints the UK firm as its exclusive European fulfilment partner, tasking it with manufacturing and fulfilling over three million units that year for games such as Sim City, Sim Tower, A-Train and Sim Ant.
The Producers also manufactured Darkseed, published by Cyberdreams and created by HR Giger, and was appointed by Interplay as European partner. The first title for Interplay was Lost Vikings from a new team called Blizzard. The second was Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.
Other launches included Flight Unlimited for Looking Glass and Armoured Fist for Novalogic.
The Producers is appointed by GT Interactive to manufacture Quake on PC – and deliver over 1m units in just two months. It also delivered Novalogic’s F-22 Lightning and various titles as Acclaim’s SNES partner. The company also launched Peter Gabriel’s EVE. Elsewhere, The Associates is founded by Roger Large, Mungo Amyatt Leir and Andy Payne (pictured above).
New budget specialists Sold Out chooses The Producers to be its launch partner. Initial titles were 7th Guest, Dune, Creature Shock, Lure of the Temptress, Goal and Manic Karts. It also worked on the launch of Carmageddon for Stainless and SCi. The Associates was rebranded as Just Flight. Alex Ford joined the company.
The Producers became the European fulfilment partner for Red Storm, a games firm headed by author Tom Clancy, and launched Rainbow Six. It also worked on Fallout 2, Falcon 4, Baldur’s Gate and Delta Force.
Just Flight fought and won a lawsuit from British Airways over the use of Concorde. The judge rules: ‘Concorde is the property of the citizens of the UK and France’. The Producers also launched Sim City 3000 and Heroes of Might & Magic III.
Fink Creative was formed as a separate company and opened an office in Cambridge. The Producers worked on the Cohesion compilation for landmine charities MAK and MAG, featuring a young Badly Drawn Boy, Ian Brown, Doves and Elbow. It also worked on the launch of World Rally Championship for start-up Actualize. Dermot Stapleton joined the company.
DVD cases replaced all card packaging as industry standard. The Producers worked on The Sims and Icewind Dale.
The Producers delivered the first ever crowd-sourced music project: John Otway’s Bunsen Burner. It entered the UK singles charts at No.9 – the punk legend’s first ever Top Ten Single and on his 50th birthday. The company also launched Neverwinter Nights, Warcraft III and Splinter Cell, and worked on the deal to sell Europress Software to Koch Media.
The company launched the Entertainment Software Charity pack with GAME. Scott Phillips joined the team and launched the Just Football range.
The Producers merged with Sold Out and bought back the Mastertronic name from Sega. Chairman Frank Herman negotiated the deal with Sega for a ‘drink’ and the company became The Mastertronic Group. It launched the PC Gamer Presents range with Future, starting with Command & Conquer 2, Haegemonia, Operation Flashpoint and Serious Sam. And for the first time, a Just Flight product is sold via digital download.
Just Flight is welcomed into the Mastertronic Group. The Group launched Mad4Games for mobile games as well as the remnants of Hi Score TV. On August 8th, Mastertronic moved into a purpose-built distribution centre in Huntingdon. It was also the launch partner for Red Octane’s Guitar Hero and signed Far Cry to PC Gamer Presents.
Blast Entertainment was formed as a joint venture with Hermans Group, specifically targeted to make family-friendly licenced PS2 games. The family-friendly Sean Brennan headed up the team. In May, Guitar Hero launched in Europe. Mad4Games was appointed as GAME’s exclusive mobile content partner.
James Cato joined Mastertronic as group sales director and the firm established third party sales for other developers and publishers. It helped set up industry charity GamesAid and closed Mad4Games – four weeks before Apple launches the iPhone. Talk about great timing.
Mastertronic also signed with Rising Star to sell their games in the UK, starting with Valhalla Knights on PSP, and launched Little Britain on PS2. The TV tie-in went on to sell 150,000 units. Geoff Payne retired.
Brennan departed to set up Bethesda in Europe. Blast launched its first Nintendo DS games, spearheaded by Bob the Builder. Sold Out sold 3m units making 2008 the peak year for PC budget games.
Download specialist Get Games is formed with Eurogamer in August, with the first live sale of a download on November 24th. The Group also set up GamesAid’s eBay shop to sell all games-related ephemera.
A big merger deal with Trilogy fell through when the distributor went bust, but Mastertronic gained City Interactive as a partner. Bob The Builder is the Group’s best-selling game of the year.
Chairman Frank Herman passes away. “RIP Frank we will always love you”, says Andy Payne.
Mastertronic aided Charles Cecil in selling the Broken Sword series throughout Europe on PC. Mastertronic’s best-seller for that year was Sniper: Ghost Warrior for Xbox 360 from City Interactive, which sold over 300,000 units.
The Group helped to set up AppyNation, a collective of UK games developers that united to create their own publisher. Mastertronic’s best-selling game was once again Sniper: Ghost Warrior, selling a further 240,000 units. Nick Payne joined the company and Steve Allwork retired.
Mastertronic launched its first XBLA title, Serious Sam 3, and helped Rebellion publish Sniper Elite V2 on PC worldwide.
The GamesAid eBay shop passes £100,000 worth of sales since it opened. Mastertronic helped found Gambitious.com, the first games-focused equity crowd-funding platform. Key signings included adding Bethesda’s Fallout III, Oblivion, and New Vegas to the Group’s ranges, and selling Big Ben’s products in the UK.
The best selling game was Worms Collection. The joint founder of Mastertronic 1.0 Alan Sharam passed away. RIP Alan.
The first equity crowd-funded game on Gambitious hit its target 11 days early, raising €350,000 from 651 investors and fans. Mastertronic launched Rebellion’s Sniper Nazi Zombie Army on PC.
Mastertronic 2.0, incorporating The Producers turned 25 years old on April 1st. It has built and shipped a total of 102m units since it started in 1988 to customers all over the world. The best is yet to come, clearly.
You can read our full celebration of Mastertronic's 25th Anniversary in the latest issue of MCV.