History of Sega in Ukraine

From Sega Retro

History of Sega in Ukraine
Official Sega distributor(s): Nissho Iwai (1994-1995), Buka (1994-1999), Bitman (1996-1997), R-Style (1996-1999), NVT (2000-2001), Softprom (2007-2012), 1C-SoftClub (2012-20xx)

Ukraine declared independence in 1991. Since that year, the country has been a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and remained there until 2014 due to the country's crisis.


The clone sold in Steepler stores
Another clone that looks like original Mega Drive 2, from Steepler stores

By the times of USSR, not many games were distribute in Ukraine. Most of the systems known here were Pong-based consoles, produced from late 70s to early 90s by companies located in different regions of Soviet Union (also Ukraine) and Elektronika IM series (clones of Game and Watch). Western video games like Nintendo Entertainment System or Atari 2600 existed thanks to individual persons importing them from West and some of them created a first public video game clubs were others could play on this consoles. With the end of Soviet Union, video games began to pop up more often, some of the Nintendo and Atari products being sold in stores by local distributors importing them from Europe or thanks to unlicensed ones like Rambo, an Atari 2600 clone sold on flea markets and by small stores.

In December 1992, Steepler began marketing in Russia a new console called Dendy, a Nintendo Famicom clone which became popular and standard video game system in post Soviet region. In 1993, Russian company began expansion to other post-USSR markets[1] and Ukraine became one of the key ones. Steepler established its subsidiary in the Kiev and began marketing the product which became popular like in other regions. Quickly, sellers on flea markets and stores began to import its own famiclones from Asia and sold here like Zhiliton 938-A, and some of them were heavy market to compete with Dendy like Jippy by Atlantida Enterprise LTD.[2]

Time has passed an Steepler began to expand it’s offer to other goods like Pro 16 Bit and High Quality – a clones of Mega Drive. They also imported a new Mega Drive 2 from Asia and sold them in three variants: Green box, White with triangles box and self made English-Russian box. After that, clone producers introduced new generation of clones based on Mega Drive 2, so Steepler began to sold them as well, having now in it's stores old clones, new clones and imported originals. Of course, the stores had a large assortment of games from the USA, Asia and bootleg ones and to bypass the regional lockout, they promoted use of Mega Key. Another new thing was Sega Genesis CDX imported from US also with games from there, which, due to its high price, has become a prestigious product in their stores.

Nissho Iwai

Standard European Mega Drive 2 bundle sold in Ukraine
Mega Drive 2 from Asia introduced by Nissho Iwai in late 1994 to lower price for about 20%, was quickly copied by pirates who sold it many years after it's discontinue
From late 1994, Steepler began selling Mega Drive 2 from Nissho Iwai channel

In 1994, Nissho Iwai began to sell Sega consoles in Ukraine, including Mega Drive II, Master System II and Game Gear in PAL system seen in Europe. The products were sold by selected authorized distributors across the country.

At similar time, the wave of Mega Drive and Dendy clones begins to flood the Ukraine by flea markets and specialized sellers which means that the original systems reach a smaller number of people. Such sellers included Subor which distributed SB-16C, Bitman that open its subsidiary in Ukraine and created solid chain of stores here and manage to distribute Turbo Bitman and Super Bitman. Ukrainian office of Teplostar distributed Russian clone called Fugi Star Drive 2. Other major brand, Kenga (which some says it was created in Ukraine) distributed Mega-Ken and the fake Mega Drive II. From 1995, began sells of original Multi-Mega in European PAL system with games. At the time, Dendy cost 4000-5000 Karbovantsiv and up, Mega Drive clone cost around 25000 Karbovantsiv and up, the most expensive one was 3DO that cost 400 000 Karbovantsiv and up.

In late 1994, one of the authorized distributors for Russia and CIS became Buka. Nissho Iwai changed a strategy and began to market cheaply produced Asian versions of consoles along with European ones, to lower its price for about 20% and that way having chance to compete with clones. So now, they distribute Mega Drive 2 in Asian PAL (console + 1 pad) along Mega Drive II European PAL (console + 2 pad + Sonic 2), Mega CD 2 in Asian PAL (console inside) along Mega CD II in European PAL (console + Road Avenger) and Mega Drive 32X in Asian/European PAL. In early 1995, first authorized sub-distributors began to import Asian versions of Sega Saturn[3], but the console was very expensive and demand was minimal.

In August 1994, Steepler created a new chain of stores specialized in sales of video games called AOZT Dendy, represented in Ukraine by "Flash" company. In late 1994, Steepler began to sell Sega products from Nissho Iwai channels[4] meaning that from now one Mega Drive could be marketed in more places but Steepler keep permission to sell cheaper clones further. In November 1994, Steepler signed with Nintendo contract under which AOZT Dendy stores became official distributor of Nintendo in all countries of former USSR. AOZT Dendy stores wont’t be selling Sega products but Steepler could sell Sega normally[5]. Despites initial success (10,000 units of Super Nintendo sold in former USSR by end of 1994), Nintendo delayed deliveries of consoles many times so AOZT Dendy stores decided to negotiate a new contract with Nintendo and got permission to sell Sega consoles again in mid-1995[6].

Besides Famicom and Mega Drive clones, Sega had competition in form of Super Nintendo and Game Boy (distributed from November 1994 by Steepler[7]), 3DO (distributed from late 1994 by Buka), PlayStation (distributed from March 1995 by Buka[8], which distribution was taken over from July 1997 by Sony CIS[9]), CD-i (distributed from 1995 by A –STIMUL[10] with chain of 3 authorised distributors) and Atari Jaguar (distributed from 1995 by Game Land).

To promote its consoles, Kenga created its own TV program called Kenga Predstavlyaet aired here around 1995/1996. Ukrainian could seen Russian show called Novaya Real'nost' supported by Steepler and broadcast from 1995-1996 on ORT channel available in all former USSR republics, but regional distributor of AOZT Dendy stores created its own regional show called Hrayutʹ Usi! shown from ≥ 1995 in Ukrainian language, replaced in 1996 by Russian language. Nissho Iwai created its own show called Sega Ostrov but not many information is known for now. Some rumors say that the Russian series Sonic - Super Hedgehog was rebroadcast in Ukraine probably before that show.

Bitman and R-Style

Despite problems with clones, Sega said that Mega Drive had good sales in CIS region including Ukraine[11] and decided to push Sega Saturn. In January 1996, Nissho Iwai was replaced with Sega Europe which sign a deal with Bitman as distributor no.1[12](making Super Bitman legal[13]), Buka as distributor no. 2 and R-Style as distributor no. 3 and start selling all Sega consoles in its stores in the PAL system seen in Europe.[12] Most of the systems released in previous years was sold still, besides Master System II. Asian versions of Sega Saturn were replace with European ones and new on the market was a educational system Sega Pico. Despite efforts, Sega Saturn turn out to be a failure due to bad global politics of Sega and still growing piracy of Mega Drive and new PlayStation. Bitman was bought by R-Style in December 1997[14], which with Buka sold until 1999 rest stocks including Sega Saturn, Mega Drive II, Mega CD II, Sega Pico and Super Bitman (KW-503).

Mega Drive clones in late 1990s/early 2000s

Boxes by Kin Wai, popularly known as Saga

Ukraine was flooded in the late 1990s and early 2000s with Mega Drive and Dendy clones from Russia by specialized distributors like Simba's Video Games and New Game which were the most widespread ones. In late 1990s, Russian bootleg sellers began to translate into Russian console and game boxes and from early 2000s localized games for Mega Drive into Russian language.

Some of the Ukrainian companies began to import clones from Asia by themselves. One of the examples is Kin Wai (Hong Kong) Investment Limited which began to distribute its consoles through Ukrainian company called TOV Kombat. The consoles sold by them had localized boxes in Ukrainian and Russian. The games were sold in self made Russian boxes and later one, with whole game localized in the same language. They were popularly refer to as "SAGA". Kin Wai delivered to Ukraine many clones during this time like Mega Drive One, Mega Drive 2, Mega Drive III, Genesis 3, Sega 2000, SAGA PS, Saga XXI Century, Sega-Boy, Sega-Boy 2, Kombat 16, Kombat 16+ and Super Kombat.


Example of Russian bootleg from Russia

In the same time, Ukraine had a market of consoles more powerful that 8-bit or 16-bit ones, where PlayStation dominate due to piracy. Sega wanted to market Dreamcast in late 2000, through Russian company NVT. They promised localized games into Russian and games in cheap jewel cases, but with the problems of 128-bit console, Sega gave up on the idea and stay with European versions. The pre-release sales of the console started on November 10, 2000 with promised of full release until end of the year.[15] Larger plans for sales and marketing were canceled when Sega announced the end of production on January 31, 2001, which meant the end of all shipments to Russia and CIS.

Even before that, there were companies importing the Dreamcast from Europe on their own and from late 2000, Dreamcast began to gradually gain popularity due to Russian pirates like Vector (Вектор), Kudos and RGR Studio who began to copy original games and distribute them in custom made boxes and after time also translated into Russian.[16]. Quickly this trend arrived to Ukraine because Russian pirates had its own distribution network channels in CIS countries[17] When in April 2001, Big Ben Interactive became a distributor in Western Europe, local Russian and Ukrainian retailers bought out consoles cheaply from them with purpose of distribution Dreamcast in the CIS countries, so the console was sold long after its withdrawal in other parts of the world.

Softprom and 1C SoftClub

In 2007, Sega team up Ukrainian company called Softprom to distribute its video games and started active promotion. The games were standard versions seen in Europe. PC market at the time was still under pressure of piracy but situation was improving year after year. The cooperation was ended around 2012.[18]

From 2012, games were released in Ukraine by the 1C-SoftClub[19] with translated boxes and localized games into Russian. The only Sega game that distribution has been stopped in CIS countries was Company of Heroes 2.[20]

Sega games are still available in digital distribution and Ukraine itself belongs to the RU-CIS-UA region when it comes to digital keys. Until 2018, digital game distribution platforms such as Steam suggested lower prices for this region. This was mainly due to piracy.

Mega Drive clones from mid-2000s

From mid-2000s, Sega clones could still be bought from local retailers and most of them were delivered to Ukraine by Russian companies that specialized in that, with Russian language software. There also existed channel that delivered consoles right away from Asia. Like in a previous years, some of the Ukrainian distributors like IgroMen or VideoGames, sold it's own copies, different only in package.

One of the newest clones is 2E Game Console 16 bit, distributed from 2022 by IP-I-AR-SI.

Sega Amusement

Since 2006, the distribution of arcade machines and equipment for children produce by Sega is being carried out by KidsPlay.[21]

QubicaAMF is a strategic partner in Russia and CIS countries.


Sititek is the official distributor of Sega Toys in Russia and CIS countries.[22]


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