(Splitting out of the general topic because I know less than 0 people actually care) RECAP The Walt Disney Company introduced me to piracy. As a youngling I had a bunch of their films on VHS, and while I can barely remember the stories, I sure remember this: (such a weird thing in hindsight - you've clearly bought the official VHS, why do we need to waste time telling us not to buy the things we've not bought) Where do these terrible pirate VHS copies come from? Why do they exist? And... do they actually exist, because I've never seen one. There'd be so much faffing around with picture formats I can't see how it would be viable in the UK, but whatever, I do like a pretty hologram, and to get the best picture quality, you're clearly best off with 4:3 pan and scan VHS copies from the early 90s. Which is good because after this production run, that film's going back in the vault and you'll never see it again. The same applies to video games (or at least certain kinds of video games, not including emulation). After the Famicom, the Sega Mega Drive is probably has the biggest "pirate" market - it's a console clearly not too difficult to reproduce, and its games are simple and numerous. Sega also took the Mega Drive worldwide - while clearly not every country had official distribution channels, there were enough for the technology to slip over borders and end up in the hands of developing nations. We think about 40 million Mega Drive consoles were officially sold, but add on unofficial Mega Drive-compatible devices and you could be doubling that figure. Most people don't care, and a lot of the time, I'd include myself in that group. But Sega Retro needs to care, because when it comes to game piracy, it's not about undercutting sales from Disney, it's about letting entire countries play video games they otherwise wouldn't have access to. Sega's history isn't just what Sega itself claims - even today the knock-off Mega Drive market is huge, and almost certanly influenced the lives of millions of people, if not the gaming industry as a whole. (also Sega originally made its business copying slot machines from Mills, then pretending it was an official distributor, so it all comes full circle) But anyway, how big is the market? Pretty freaking big. How did we get here? That's a little less clear cut. The Mega Drive launched in Japan in 1988, but Sega's staggered approach to releases mean systems were being unofficially exported around the world across 1989 and 1990. If you wanted a console, you had to import one from Japan, but if we could undercut Japanese firms, there's a business here. If you could reverse engineer the system and its games, then sell clones at a fraction of the price, you're going to do well - it's been proven (or was in the process of being proven) by the Famicom, the same should work here. And it did. And it's still working today. The basic set up is this - hardware is copied and manufactured in south-east Asia (originally the likes of Hong Kong and Taiwan, now more likely the Shenzhen region of mainland China) . Companies in South America, central Asia and the middle east import the knock-off PCBs in bulk, mould some plastic cartridges, print some labels and get the stock in the hands of shopkeepers. The law may be flimsy, and official Sega distributors may not be able to challenge you, so congratulations, you're a pirate. Although I think "bootlegging" is a better term because piracy implies illegality - if Sega isn't selling you products, you can't buy them. But aren't you violating copyright? Yeah maybe... but if you remove the copyright information, as so many bootlegs do, nobody knows any differently, unless they have brains. Perhaps you can even one-up Sega by adding new "features", or bundling multiple games into one cartridge - the so called "multi-cart" - it's going to be really difficult to police this stuff, and so it wasn't, and here we are. It's not just a niché - it's entertainment for millions. Sega Retro has been covering this topic for years, but I've made a recent push to make it better: Category:Bootlegs Mega Drive unlicensed multi-carts At the time of writing we recognise the existence of 2,510 bootlegs and 1,030 multi-carts, making us the biggest database in the world. There are tens of thousands more. Coming soon: stories and questions and things.