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30 YEARS OF SYSTEM 3: Through the ages

30 YEARS OF SYSTEM 3: Through the ages

From the birth of Activision’s European publishing division to the rise of digital, System 3 has been involved in some of the industry’s biggest developments.


With the help of CEO Mark Cale, we take a trip down memory lane and look back at the key events that has defined the British publisher.

1982 – 1983
Mark Cale set up System 3 in his bedroom in London. The publisher’s first game was shoot ‘em up Colony 7 for Atari machines, followed swiftly by Lazer Cycle for the BBC Micro and Death Star Interceptor.

1983 – 1984
Cale visited the US to licence Death Star Interceptor but ended up picking up three C64 products – Suicide Strike, Juice and Motocross.

1985
System 3 launched International Karate via a big blitz at the PCW Show in London. The firm then set up Europe’s first third-party affiliate label with Activision – the first truly international publisher. System 3 offered the company first option to release International Karate in the US. Activision handed the game to its sports division, Gamestar, run by Scott Orr. Cale recalls Orr saying: ‘This Euro rubbish. It will never work over here.’ Undeterred, Cale sent the game to EA and Epyx, and within 48 hours Epyx boss  Gil Freeman signed the game.

1986
International Karate collected a CES Showcase Award, the first European game to do so. And it was the first European product to get a Billboard No.1 in the United States.

1987
Learning from its error with International Karate, Activision signs Last?Ninja on C64 from System 3. It sold 7.5m copies and picked up several awards.

1988
System 3’s highwater mark was the launch of Last Ninja 2 . The sequel was well received and sold 13.5m copies. The game was so popular that lorries were being hijacked and stock stolen. Because of the Lost Ninja series and other titles like Myth, System 3 accounted for a large proportion of Activision’s global revenue.

1990
After losing a high-profile case to Magnavox in the mid-80s, Activision went into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Cale and his company were forced to rebuild after this serious low-point.

1991
The acclaimed Last Ninja 3 is released.


1993
System 3’s early ‘90s hits included games based on Putty, the first of which was Super Putty on the SNES.

1997
System 3 released its Sim City-style hit Constructor. Some of the creators of the PC and PSOne game left to help EA create The Sims.

1999
Mob Rule launced as a follow on to Constructor.

2000
System 3 released some of its most acclaimed titles at the turn of the century, securing games from Japanese developers. These included top-down shooter Silent Bomber and fighter Toshinden 4.

2003
System 3 launched its value-label Play It. The firm spotted a gap in the market for affordable PS2 titles and launched a string of successful products, including MX World Tour, which went on to sell 1.5m copies.


2004
System 3 launched America’s 10 Most Wanted. The full-priced title went to No.2 in the charts.

2006
Gottlieb Pinball Classics launches on PSP. It was the first game to take Sony’s peer-to-peer technology and convinced the platform holder to allow game sharing. Game sharing is when a user can play multiplayer with another PSP owner by using one disc and has since become an industry standard.

2008
As a big Ferrari fan, it was surprising that it took 26 years for Mark Cale to launch his first Ferrari racing game. Ferrari Challenge debuted on PS3.

2009
System 3 developed a configurator/ race simulator for the Ferrari website. Consumers could spec out their own Ferrari, choose colour, model and so forth, then take the car out on a virtual Ferrari race track while they wait for their new car to be completed.

2010
Mark Cale announced System 3 will focus on digital products. “It’s the future of the industry,” he said. The firm also opens a Japanese office and launches Williams Pinball Classics, which achieves high review scores.

2011
System 3 gets to No.2 in December’s Japanese PSN chart with Ferrari:?The Race Experience.

For all of System 3’s titles  past and present, head to www.system3.com.

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Tags: system 3 , ferrari challenge , 30 years of System 3 , Last Ninja , Constructor , International Karate

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