Virgin Interactive

From Sega Retro

Virgin Interactive was a British video game developer and publisher. Founded in 1983[1] as Virgin Games Ltd., it was the Virgin Group's first foray into the video game market.


In its initial form, Virgin Games, like many British video game companies of the day, developed and published video games for home computer platforms, such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.

In 1987, Virgin Games bought a minority stake in budget label cash-strapped Mastertronic, as Virgin Games wanted to be in the budget computer games business[1]. Mastertronic, set to be the official distributor of the Sega Master System in the UK, suffered a setback after Sega delivered the first order of consoles too late, leading to Virgin Games acquiring the company in full later in the year, creating Virgin Mastertronic, Ltd. in the process[1].

Virgin Mastertronic, essentially given free reign over Sega's products after they left Japan, was extremely successful at marketing the Master System in the region. It took over distribution in France and Germany in mid-1988, with Spain to follow in 1990[1]. Whilst in mid-1989 they tied up a 5 year extension for their European Sega Master System distribution rights, also adding the Sega Mega Drive rights, which they would eventually release in 1990. The deal was said to be worth £100 million[2], and included over one million units of hardware and seven million units of software[3] until 1994, figures that they would sail through by just the end of 1990.

In 1990 Sega appointed Virgin as a third party publisher[4].

Seeing its success, Sega acquired the publishing arm of Virgin Mastertronic in 1991, turning it into Sega Europe[5][1]. The development arm, which Sega was not interested in, returned to its original name as Virgin Games. Over the next few years, Virgin Games would see a string of successes, the most notable of which being the hand-animated Disney's Aladdin which redefined computer animation in games.

1993 saw the company rename itself as Virgin Interactive Entertainment. During this period it capitalised on the work of Westwood Studios, among others. Virgin Interactive would transition more towards a publishing and distribution company in the years which followed. In late 1995 it acquired the distribution rights for Capcom titles in Europe[6].

The British studio operations were acquired in a management buyout led by former Managing Director Tim Chaney in 1998. The U.S. operations were sold to Electronic Arts as part of its acquisition of Westwood Studios that same year. The company's assets were acquired in 1999 by the French publisher Titus Software, with its name being changed to Avalon Interactive on July 1, 2003. The short lived Virgin Play then subsequently resulted from what was once the Spanish publishing division of Virgin Interactive.


Master System

Mega Drive

Game Gear






Amstrad CPC

Atari ST

Commodore 64


ZX Spectrum

Promotional material

Mega Drive/Master System software library print advert in Computer & Video Games (UK) #134: "January 1993" (1992-12-15)



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