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Tangentially related Sega stories

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Oct 2, 2022.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    aka I occasionally find things that are (partially) outside the scope of Sega Retro, but ought to be written down so it doesn't get lost.

    Disclaimer: much of this is only partially researched. Facts might be wrong.


    So every 6-12 months (or whenever I feel like it), I scavenge ebay for Sega-related things. In the absense of scans or people wanting to document their stuff, it can often be the best way to get details (or at the very least, replacement photographs). And then you find something, discover our coverage kinda sucks, and spend the next day getting stuck down rabbit holes. So here's a question nobody asked:

    [​IMG]

    ~Mysterious~ Dreamcast controller, DC-6. We don't even know the year it was made... and we still don't. But we do know the branding: Competition Pro.


    But if you look up "Competition Pro" on the internet, you get... a Competition Pro:

    [​IMG]

    It's one of the most iconic line of computer joysticks ever made. In fact... they're still made today, albeit as USB devices, and with a fraction of the build quality. People collect these things - there's so many little variants and off-shoots, and yet when you put the term into Wikipedia, you get... a sub-heading of a defunct electronics company. So if Kempston Micro Electronics died in 1993, why I can I buy Competition Pros today?

    ...because the German company Speedlink got the rights a few years ago. But what about 1999/2000 for this Dreamcast pad? Well uh yeah Wikipedia is probably wrong.


    So Kempston, based in Kempston, was a company most famous for the ZX Spectrum add-ons. Or specifically the "Kempston Joystick Interface", which let you plug joysticks into the machine, because Sinclair didn't offer that as an option straight away. It was a big deal, and a big faff because other companies had similar ideas but didn't talk to each other. As such, the Spectrum games often ask you which type of joystick "standard" you're using - you never had this issue with Commodores and Amstrads because they had joystick ports from the get go.

    [​IMG]

    Sell an interface, and you might as well sell a joystick. And that's where Wikipedia's research stopped - Kempston made things, so they must have made joysticks, the end.

    [​IMG]

    Not quite.

    I think Kempston just distributed Competition Pros - they were manufacturered by this company, Coin Controls Ltd.. Usually you can trace a (recent) British company through Companies House, but this isn't a recent company, and their business is... unusual.

    That address is an old cotton mill:
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.5...174.19713&pitch=0&thumbfov=100!7i16384!8i8192

    "Grape Mill" was turned into a factory and produced "controls". My vague understanding is this is literally the control panels of say, vending machines or telephone booths. In 1982/1983 they got into the business of producing computer joysticks, and the first in the line, the "Competition Pro 5000" was born. People liked it because it had proper arcade microswitches in it. Coin Controls didn't have a full distribution network in place, however, so it was up to companies like Kempston to sell the things. But they weren't doing this for very long:

    [​IMG]
    The bods in charge set up their own distribution firm in the same building. And for the rest of the 1980s you got Competition Pros in many different colours and some with extra buttons.

    The Sega bit - the Master System and Mega Drive got the third iteration of the controller, the Competition Pro Star but there's an obvious problem - the Mega Drive has 4 buttons, the SNES has 8 - it's not a good enough design for console gaming. But rather than make something new, Coin Controls rebadged some products from the far East

    [​IMG]
    They also had a US branch by then, and the "controls" division was spun off and became "Happ Controls Inc." in 1986. Meanwhile in the UK, "Powerplay Ltd." was set up for distribution in UK. Eventually they stop talking about Coin Controls - I can only assume the business of selling video game accessories was transferred to these two distributors (given they weren't manufacturing them in-house anymore). Competition Pro is literally just a brand at this point.

    [​IMG]

    It goes away in the 2010s though, probably around the point Speedlink obtained the license and actually started making "proper" joysticks again. It's probably fair to say the average console owner doesn't, and perhaps has never, given a damn about the Competition Pro brand, so it's no great loss.

    Where are they now?

    https://www.speedlink.com/en/COMPETITION-PRO-EXTRA-USB-Joystick-black-red/SL-650212-BKRD
    Speedlink still exist, and will happily sell you a Competition Pro USB joystick. I've heard mixed reviews, but that was ages ago - maybe they've got better.

    https://na.suzohapp.com/
    Happ Controls merged with a rival company, Suzo and became Suzohapp. They're still in games... kinda - they'll sell you parts for arcade machines and the like.

    https://www.powerplaybrands.com/
    Powerplay gave up on the video game accessories dream and now sells... clothes. And they're still based in Grape Mill. Perhaps they should pave that road.

    Kempston Micro Electronics's headquarters probably still exists, but the company has been dead for years.

    [​IMG]

    Competition Pro joysticks remain a perfectly valid way to play games designed for 8 and 16-bit home computers.
     
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  2. Yeah, I've been out of the "Build Your Own Arcade Cabinet" scene for... quite awhile now, but when I was lurking and looking at ideas for builds the name Happ came up frequently. I thought I'd just been out of it for a bit until that mention that Suzo and Happ had merged, I looked it up and that was in 2004 so apparently I'm way out of the loop on that scene now.
     
  3. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I actually have one of the MD controllers shown on that flier =P
     
  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    This is a semi-mystery in itself, but not much of one, because the creators are credited on the box.

    Most Competition Pro products of the 1990s were actually produced by Hong Kong-based Honey Bee, which still exists. Honey Bee found fame and possibly fortune by producing region converter cartridges that looked like this:

    [​IMG]

    (after stealing Hudson Soft's logo, they kind-of stole Nintendo's but it was different enough for people not to notice)

    Asian knock-off quality chart:

    Japan > Hong Kong > Taiwan > China

    so not super terrible from what I gather.


    The semi-mystery comes from this noise:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Honey Bee licensed their designs to two UK companies, which would have sold them at the same time. I don't know why this is a thing.
     
  5. LockOnTommy11

    LockOnTommy11

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    Two words: maximum profits.

    This is a fascinating history of a company that I didn’t think had a one. In any event, not one I thought anyone would care about.

    I had some Competition Pro GBA and GameCube stuff back in the day. In fact, I think I still have some of it.

    The GCN one was a controller and a memory card. The controller broke after less than a year, and the memory card failed not long afterward. The GBA one was a starter pack with a case and random stuff. It had a slide on controller that turned the SP d-pad into a joystick.

    It scratched the fuck out of my console :colbert:
     
  6. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I have one of those HoneyBee carts as well, wow =P
     
  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    it confused me, so it can confuse you too:


    [​IMG]

    According to the internet, this is the first "ergonomic joystick": the "QuickShot" by "Spectravision", introduced in 1982. Spectravision was a games company set up in 1981; they made some Atari 2600 games, and then made this joystick. Was it really the first ergonomic stick? Probably not, but I haven't looked it up. What I do know is the company had a legal problem so changed their name to Spectravideo.

    [​IMG]

    Spectravideo is probably one of the most important names in gaming of the time, but you'd be hard-pressed to know, because they weren't as "front facing" as say, Atari or Coleco or Nintendo. They designed products in the US and had it manufactured by partner in Hong Kong, a company known as "Bondwell". Business was good and they started making computers nobody remembers:

    [​IMG]
    (that's the Camputers Lynx btw, not the popular one you're thinking of)

    Spectravideo later became "Spectravideo International" (SVI), and pretty much all of their products would have codenames prefixed with "SV" or "SVI"... so you knew where they came from.

    Spoilers: Nobody bought their computers, so in 1985 the US business was shut down and Bondwell took control of everything (although having been co-developed by ASCII, the SV-318 and SV-328 became the basis of the MSX standard, so ended up being important in other ways). At this point the Spectravideo business, now based out of Hong Kong(?) was producing MSX (and later IBM)-compatible computers, while and continuing with their QuickShot range.

    [​IMG]
    We certainly know they weren't completely dead by 1985 because the QuickShot XV came out in 1987 and still credits SVI.


    But according to Wikipedia, the brand was dead in the water by 1988. So quiz me this:

    [​IMG]

    Why does the SG Fighter, a joystick from 1990, have a Spectravideo code name? And why is it Quickjoy instead of QuickShot? Because Wikipedia is wrong. Kinda.


    I don't know the history of Quickjoy - I suspect it's a line of German products originally conceived by "Jöllenbeck GmbH" (which if you're paying attention, own Speedlink, of Competition Pro fame), but they were sold, at least in the UK, by... Spectravideo, the apparently dead brand. And the reason for this is fairly simple - the US operations died in a fire, but the UK subsidiary, "Spectravideo Ltd." kept going... to the point where it was competiting against its former owner:

    [​IMG]

    Bondwell would seemingly rename itself QuickShot Ltd. at some point in the 1990s, since by this point only the joysticks were selling. "Quickjoy" became "QJ" (or "quality joystick") and got picked up in the US by "STD Entertainment" (later InterAct)... and STD continued the code naming scheme:

    [​IMG]

    The UK Spectravideo meanwhile, got messy:

    [​IMG]

    Word on the street is that the Spectravideo name was sold to "Ash & Newman" in 1988 - I'm not sure how true that was, or whether the whole company was absorbed, but whatever - the name lived on and a new brand, Logic 3.


    So to put this in perspective, in 1993, three accessory companies were continuing the Spectravideo legacy:
    - Bondwell/QuickShot which absorbed the original company
    - STD/InterAct that adopted Spectravideo's naming scheme for some reason
    - Ash & Newman/Logic 3, which bought the company name for some reason

    They're all dead now. The last to go was Logic 3 in 2014.
     
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  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    Doki Doki Penguin Land is an SG-1000 game designed by future Sega president Hisao Oguchi in 1985. You're a penguin delivering an egg to your girlfriend - there were sequels on the Master System and Mega Drive.

    Apparently the use of penguins was inspired by "Suntory commercials".



    It's something I've been vaguely interested in for years - why are Japanese penguins blue? Probably because of this line of adverts.

    Starting in 1983, Japanese brewer Suntory started using these penguins in their adverts for SUNTORY CAN BEER. "Beer so good it'll make you cry", apparently.


    It's properly depressing. These days the "franchise" is known as Papipu Penguins and is a little more child friendly, but for the first few yars it was "sad penguins drinking", culminating in a movie in 1985, "Penguin's Memory: Shiawase Monogatari" (ペンギンズ・メモリー 幸福物語):


    (ignore the kids pretending this is Club Penguin for the lulz)

    The movie stars a main character, "Mike" riddled with PTSD after his penguin buddies are killed in the DELTA WAR (not that one, honest).




    On the other side of the fence, the apparent "Penguin craze" that came from these adverts probably inspired Konami to make Antactic Adventure, which led to their new pseudo Penguin mascot, Pentarou turning up in the Parodius games:
    [​IMG]
    Oh, that's why they gave him a gun.


    Where are the Papipu Penguins now? Well they sold some mobile phones for a bit in the mid-2000s, and you can still buy merchandise today. They haven't sold beer in a while though.
     
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