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Press Cuttings

Popular Computing Weekly, Dec 1987 published this interview with Geoff Heath. I am not sure why he is described as projects manager. I thought by this time he was director of marketing or something similar

Diverse Pursuits
Diversifying into distribution is among Mastertronic plans for 1988. Nikki Carvey investigates.

Mastertronic - budget software arcade games and distribution are among its diverse pursuits. Throughout this year, it has been accumulating licensing deals — how far is it planning to go? What computer software pies do Frank Herman and Co. plan to stick their fingers into next?

Most recently, Mastertronic has received coverage over its link-up with Activision. Referring to the deal, Mastertronic’s new projects manager Geoff Heath commented, "Games which have used up their useful life as full-price products have got tremendous potential as budget titles.”
This philosophy has been applied in the past to US Gold and Hewson, since Mastertronic acts as distributer on their behalf. It was success with these that prompted Mastertronic to expand its distribution service — something which
is set to continue in 1988.

“We will be casting our net world-wide in 1988”, said Heath. “With our marketing and sales clout we can handle a lot of third party products.”
Heath hinted that there were a number of other companies wishing to team up with Mastertronic, but refused to divulge exactly who they were.
“The Ricochet label will grow dramatically next year, with Activision and the other products we hope to get on board”, was all he would say.

Rod Cousens, managing director of Activision, discussed the factors influencing his deal with Mastertronic, aside from his long-standing association with Geoff Heath.
“We were conscious of Mastertronic as a budget label and thought budget was an important part of business to go into as a secondary line,” he said.
Cousens was adamant, however, tat Activision had no plans to move into the budget market as a competitor to Mastertronic although the secondary aspect would be of Increasing importance to it.

The budget market was also important to US Gold, as expressed in their multi-million pound sales and distribution deal with Mastertronic.
Geoff Brown, managing director of US gold, commented, “In quality terms the Americana range was one of the highest — the distribution success, which is the key to any consumer product, is now guaranteed.”

Similarly, Andrew Hewson approached Mastertronic because he was aware of their strength in the software marketplace. “I was determined to establish my own Rack-It label,” he said, ‘and I was keen to find somebody who could put the product in all the stores, CTNs and garages.”
He added that the latest Gallup figures show that Mastertronic is the strongest at getting products onto all shelves. The latest figures allocated Mastertronic 21.2 per cent of the marketplace, putting them way ahead of their closest rival, Code Masters with 13.2 per cent.

A spokesperson for Gallup stated that in terms of software units sold, Mastertronic accounted for one in five games. Mastertronic is obviously very pleased with its position at the top of the market having vociferously complained to Gallup about the way the percentage was calculated.
Heath is confident Mastertronic will retain this hold throughout 1988, and perhaps even increase it if future deals go according to plan.
Some of its projects for the future will be associated with Melbourne House, a subsidiary which Mastertronic acquired earlier this year.

It is Heath’s intention ‘to take the company upmarket to mainly 18-bit products.’

To assist this rise, Mastertronic has succeeded in a timely distribution deal with Technos, a major Japanese development company, According to Mastertronic PR person, Rachel Davis, this is a first for the company. “Nobody else has done a world-wide deal with developers before,” she explained.
The deal evolved through Mastertronic’s coin-op subsidiary, Arcadia. Here too, things are changing. Mastertronic has now come up with ‘Super Select System’ a sort of games jukebox. Instead of one arcade game in a cabinet, there will be five. At present these are either sports simulations or action games. The reaction to it in the trade has been tremendous,” said Heath

While Mastertronic is now often associated with the budget market, it seems that its other projects should be taken equally seriously.
For Mastertronic, the future appears to lie in full-price software just as much as budget. Perhaps, like Rod Cousens of Activision, the company believes that full-price is more able to foster innovation and progress.

When examining the expansion and diversification of Mastertronic, the influence exerted by Virgin obviously comes to mind. Does it have any control over Mastertronic’s business participations? As far as Virgin and Mastertronic are concerned, Virgin’s involvement is strictly a ‘hands off investment’.
While this may be true, Virgin has certainly fuelled Mastertronic’s interest in CD ROM and interactive video. It is believed that something may come to fruition late next year, although Heath was again evasive about the matter, saying only, “It is very early days yet. We are co-operating with Virgin in these areas as it is a logical market to go into.”

One is left speculating on how much further Mastertronic is likely to go. Those who have signed deals with the company have done so predominantly because its distribution service shines — in the case of CTNs and other alternative outlets, Mastertronic successfully trod where no-one had gone before.
From this Mastertronic has gone on to bigger and better things, 1987 was a good year, in which Mastertronic undertook some impressive distribution deals. What is in store for 1988 and who else will we see jumping on hoard the Mastertronic bandwagon?