It is fascinating how the history of video games tends to be skewed towards a USA-centric narrative. Still, to this day, it is relatively easy to come across articles – written by Italians of all people – that keep on mentioning the “console wars” in the 90s or the “great video game crash of 1983”, and yet, did not seem to have any particular effects on Europe. It is then interesting to talk about something so niche like the marketing of Sega in Italy, since it is something that barely gets mentioned and remembered.
But, going back in time, events of such magnitude like the crash could have been felt all over the world. Sure, that is theoretically fair, but that might be slightly misleading as well. The great crash was caused by console companies competing against each other in a war that was first and foremost about quantity, not quality. In the old continent consoles, like the Atari VCS and Mattel Intellivision, while present and appreciated in several countries, did not have such a market share to cause confusion in consumers. Home computers were definitely much more prevalent, at least as a general market share.
In the late 80s, Sega was the first Japanese company that managed to establish a sizeable following in the old continent, along with impressive sales volumes. They accomplished this thanks to massive marketing campaigns for their 8-bit console, the Master System, and through agreements with companies like Virgin Mastertronic. While Sega fought harshly against Nintendo in the US, it found little to no competition in Europe. As for the “console war”, it was deemed illegal to make references to other companies in advertisements all throughout the 80s and 90s in Europe. Thus, there was no chance to see a “Sega does what Nintendon’t” commercial or anything like that. The only possible console war in that decade could have been between kids arguing whether PlayStation was better than Nintendo 64, and even that quarrel didn’t last long.
Back to Italy: in the 90s, if we were to reference Pinocchio, the country turned out to be Sega’s proverbial Land of Toys. It was the partnership with a smart and market-savvy Italian distributor that kick-started the love affair between Sega and Italians, but the alliance proved to be a less than wise choice in the long run.
Everything starts with a single coin
Before Sega started marketing home consoles, the company was reigning supreme in the arcades. Originally, the distribution of their coin-ops in Italy was handled by Elettronolo, a company based in Firenze (Florence) and managed by Tiziano Fagioli. News on that front are, unfortunately, pretty scarce.
From 1993 onwards it was handled by Tecnoplay, a company still to this day based in San Marino, a microstate within Italian territory. Its current CEO, Mauro Zaccaria, was kind enough to answer some of my questions, and he told me that his father Marino Zaccaria, the company’s founder, had been entertaining business relationships with many pezzonovanta involved in the games industry since the 70s.
It’s through these connections that Tecnoplay initially got in touch with Mario Cotza, Managing Director and President of Sega of Europe’s Amusements division, fully dedicated to arcades. Cotza became the man behind SEGA’s strong bond with Tecnoplay, which by 1993 was already distributing slot machines and pinballs (by Sega Pinball, formerly Data East).
Every year – Mauro tells me – an impressive amount of coin-op titles by Sega hit arcades and bars, up until 2005. Mauro was a fan of Virtua Fighter and he shrugs when he mentions that it was a game that saw little to no success in Italy because of Tekken‘s fierce competition. On the other hand, a lesser-known coin-op title like World Club Champion Football was one of Sega’s greatest hits, both in Italy and Japan, while being a title to this day mostly ignored in the rest of Europe and the US.
Mauro also fondly recalls when the Japanese company contacted them while developing the sequel to House of the Dead. Tecnoplay and Sega together scouted locations to be featured in the game, in Firenze, Bologna and Venezia (Venice).
Something similar happened with the sequel to Sega Rally, with the Japanese company inviting the Italian distributor to join them in Montecarlo for a trip on a rally car.
Sega was king of the world back then.
Interestingly enough, Sega-branded computers would arrive in Italy even before Nintendo.
Melchioni, a brand known to Italians for having already distributed Atari consoles, was the company behind the SC-3000 home computer arriving on Italian shores. They had actually visited Sega directly in Japan in order to obtain an exclusive publishing agreement. The company had allocated a significant advertising budget for the Sega computer as well, in order to contrast the Commodore 64′ significant market share but, fate intervened: a fire ended up destroying a warehouse full of expensive Philishave razors. In the end, the budget for Sega vanished in a puff of smoke (literally) and the distribution for the SC-3000 ended up being very limited, in the realm of a few hundred units sold. Melchioni – apparently – never distributed another Sega or videogame product again.
Another company, called “NBC Italia” – no relation with the Universal company – handled Italian distribution of the Master System from 1986 to 1988. NBC imported the console, translated the manual and simply released the console as it was, never even bothering to shoot a TV commercial. They apparently just dubbed in Italian an international commercial. To the extent of my knowledge, they didn’t even put their logo on the box, like other brands were doing in Italy, so no actual “NBC SEGA Master Systems” seem to have existed. Their first commercial move was actually a letter, sent to subscribers of a videogame magazine in November of 1986, to gauge interest. How they were planning, in 1987, to sell a console with little to no advertising shall forever remain a mystery.
A new challenger approaches!
The Japanese company was, understandably, unhappy with the less-than-ambitious NBC Italia and soon moved to a much more experienced partner: Giochi Preziosi.
Giochi Preziosi is the creation of Enrico Preziosi, a self-made businessman born in Salerno, a town in Southern Italy. The company name is a play on words which can be read both as “Toys by Preziosi” or “Precious Toys”. Preziosi had first worked at Philips in the 70s and subsequently, in 1978, created an import-export company in his own garage. According to Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”, he would import toys from China and sell them in and around Milano.
Surprisingly, by 1987, Giochi Preziosi was reporting annual revenues in the realm of 31 million euros, already a force to be reckoned with. They would, later, officially distribute the most important toys of the 80s and 90s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and, later, Pokemon.
A big opportunity, both for the company and – as we will see – Sega, arrived when Silvio Berlusconi adopted the “Tv per ragazzi” (kids TV) for his three channels: dedicated TV programming that occupied many children’s afternoons. At the time, in 1984, only GiG had the financial prowess to produce enough TV commercials to fill three different channels’ worth of kids’ shows and cartoons.
Pretty soon, Preziosi’s company ended up having as much space on television as GiG. Some speculated that Berlusconi and Enrico Preziosi had somehow reached an agreement, in order to keep the advertising market balanced between two big companies. Besides gossip, what surely happened, anyway, is that Giochi Preziosi ended up investing an unprecedented amount of money in advertising for Sega. Not only on Berlusconi’s television network, but on others too, as we will see later.
Interestingly enough, the first video game-related product that GP handled, years before their relationship with Sega, was Nintendo’s very own Game & Watch. Years before Mattel would even come around, the Nintendo handhelds were being distributed by Preziosi’s company, along with a Roman company called OTO. Even though this article focuses on Sega, this 1986 commercial for Nintendo “Game & Watch” does tie-in with the overall history of videogame marketing in Italy and, especially, the history of Giochi Preziosi.
Considering the ad, the target audience for handhelds seemed to be the same as with all other children’s toys, even throwing in young girls into the mix, probably for the first time ever on a videogame commercial. Also, for some reason, they call Mario Bros “Marios”, perhaps to save time?
It matches with what Giuliano Doccioli – former ad man for GiG, the other main toy company in Italy – was telling me during our phone interview: Preziosi’s commercials took everyone in the industry by surprise. Their style seemed to be little more than a refined “let’s throw everything at the wall to see what sticks”: catchy (stolen) songs, ingenious slogans and quickfire editing. Back then, Giochi Preziosi’s commercials were being produced by Diaframma, a marketing studio in Florence, right next to GiG’s own.
Doccioli also recalls how GiG’s owner, Horvat, told him to peruse each second of Preziosi’s commercials in order to find their secret sauce. But – he told me – there really was no sauce at all! Years later Giuliano had the opportunity to talk with the producer who worked on most of the commercials done by Diaframma. After Giuliano asked what their secret was, the producer replied, in a heavy Florentine accent:
“Secret? What secret? I just wanted to hurry up and shoot the damn things so I could go to lunch!”
Nintendo’s decision to partner with Mattel first and GiG later had definitely something to do with Giochi Preziosi working with Sega already by 1988. With the company being notoriously jealous of their properties, they were keen to avoid all possible mix-ups. Also by 1990, Preziosi already owned his own chain of toy shops, “Giocheria”, and could count on Berlusconi to sell even more Sega consoles in supermarket chains like Standa (owned by the Italian businessman).
That is actually how I ended up buying a bundle edition of the Master System, so-called “Master System 2 Plus”, with a Light Phaser and three bundled in games. Well, four, considering Alex Kidd in Miracle World was already available within the console’s memory. Games could be chosen from a wide variety of titles. While I have no recollection of the available titles at the time, I ended up picking Dick Tracy (the movie had just come out), Moonwalker and The Lucky Dime Caper. I was a Micheal Jackson and Disney fan at the time, who wasn’t?
Giochi Preziosi & Sega: like bread and butter
Going back to 1989 with Giochi Preziosi taking over, they also acquired whatever stock was left from NBC as a contractual obligation and immediately started branding everything, adding their own logo and style of packaging. The direct employer of GP for their line of gaming products was Shigekazu Hayashi, marketing director for Sega of Europe.
Dario Berté, former marketing director for Sega in Italy, tells me that Mr Hayashi was always very open to experimentation and never made weird demands as Nintendo did with GiG. Then again, Sega had a radically different approach in order to maintain their marketing position as the most successful Japanese company in Europe.
By the time the first Sega commercials were shot, Preziosi was already planning to open his own marketing company by means of the Winter Company studio, based in Milano. Early Master System commercials, shot before their studio was up and running, were not particularly captivating: no weird ideas, no catchy songs, nobody even got electrocuted in these ads, not even a little. Just a kid playing Sega games and talking directly to the audience with an almost professional demeanor. The same blonde kid also shows up in even more Sega commercials, becoming a sort of familiar face, at least until 1991.
With a pretty abysmal the lip-sync, the voice actor for the kid is clearly in his thirties and he’s taking a great deal of care in pronouncing each English word correctly. That’s some attention to detail, at least for an Italian advert. This was “local TV” kind of quality. Apparently, not wholly satisfied, Giochi Preziosi decided to go one step beyond and went down the impervious road of celebrity endorsements.
Their first choice in term of celebrities was pretty sensible: Walter Zenga. At the time he was the goalkeeper for Italy’s national football team (“soccer” if you’re reading from the US) and a pretty well-known face among children too. In this commercial, he shows up right next to our dear blonde kid. Okay, they do not really seem to be next to each other, but they tried.
The commercial shows how Winter Studio had taken matters in their hands, feeling entirely different from the one that aired just a year before. The kid now has a vaguely realistic teenager voice and while, Zenga looks like he’s bored out of his mind, but I guess that is to be expected. The cartridges are still called “cassettes” though, which is strange since even the game manuals, by then, were calling them “cartucce” (cartridges). “Forza Italia” says Zenga at the end, already looking at the not-so-distant future.
Most importantly, Preziosi was starting to launch their own peculiar promotions: this time there’s an actual soccer ball bundled with a videogame console. In 1990, the soccer World Cup was being played in Italy, of all nations, one of the biggest events of the decade, so it definitely made sense for all the kids to go out and buy the rather mediocre World Soccer on Master System. Years later, other soccer players like Roberto Mancini and Gianluigi Lentini would also join the “Sega winning team” and even a road racing cyclist like Gianni Bugno. The newspaper Repubblica reveals that, apparently, the sponsorship with Bugno for Sega, costed Giochi Preziosi something in the realm of 250.000€. Bertè tells me all these sportsmen were chosen because the best selling games at the time were sports ones, especially soccer. Later commercials even went as far as adopting the slogan “Sega: games for champions”
The approach definitely made sense with what Sega was also doing at the time: sponsoring the XXXVIII Sega European Grand Prix, a race weekend held at the British circuit of Donington Park on 11th April 1993. Sega had already sponsored the Williams F1 team and threw an incredible amount of money at the event, as pictures from that day clearly show.
If Giochi Preziosi builds it, the Mega Drive will come
The Sega Megadrive was launched in Italy in November of 1990, at first only available in Giocheria shops. Then, from January of the following year, everywhere else.
At that time, Berté, interviewed by the Italian magazine K, had this to say:
“Master System is dedicated to kids under 14 years of age, the ones just starting with videogames; Megadrive is going to be for everyone else”.
The reasoning behind this declaration appears to be that the more primitive the graphics, the more childish the game. That concept hasn’t really aged that well, hasn’t it? It seemed to be nothing more than a way to tease kids into buying the more powerful (and more expensive) console in order not to feel left behind. Reverse psychology, of sorts.
On the marketing side, the jump to 16-bit was accompanied by a dramatic shift in the advertising budget for Preziosi. From 1991 onwards, the company would dedicate an unprecedented (and probably ever since unmatched) amount of money and time to promote Sega consoles. This is where we come to the final celebrity endorsement: actor-comedian Jerry Calà.
Jerry Calà was, at the time, pretty well-known for his raunchy style of comedy, starring in countless movies filled with naked girls whom he would gawk at with his trademark gestures and catchphrase: “libidine, doppia libidine, libidine coi fiocchi!” (“hubba hubba, hubba hubba plus, hubba hubba with a bow on top!” as the author of blog Doppiaggi italioti kindly adapted in English). The English-speaking world has probably spotted Jerry Calà in his infamous Chicken Park, a 90s schlocky spoof of Jurassic Park which gained international “popularity” in the last decade, mostly through YouTube mockery.
Berté is quick to tell me that Calà was chosen because of his popularity with families and kids, along with his surefire way of selling a product thanks to his recognizable catchphrases. This may sound weird today but, let us not forget this is Sega we’re talking about. I think they were more than happy to let Giochi Preziosi do their thing, as long as that meant more sales. Even though some other people, like John Holder, do seem to remember that Sega did not seem to be that happy.
Why linking a sex-innuendo comedian to a kids’ product you ask? Well, it’s Italy we’re talking about here. The “libidine!” catchphrase (literally meaning “libido!”), while not in significant use, is still widely recognized in Italy nowadays, that’s how much we loved it (apparently?).
As it is easy to see the commercials got progressively weirder, abandoning their serious tone, while letting Calà free to do his thing, delivering the two or three nonsensical catchphrases that he was known for, along with making faces at the camera, etc. But that’s not all. With Sonic being such a success in Italy, Giochi Preziosi actually developed a couple of commercials with an animated Sonic who even speaks.
I was not able to find any direct evidence, but it is possible to theorize that this is where the very first Sonic cartoon originated from. It is surely no coincidence that the blue hedgehog’s first cartoon, the short-lived SatAM, was co-produced by Reteitalia (Berlusconi’s company before Mediaset).
Until 1993, before GiG picked up the pieces and relaunched the Game Boy, the best-selling handheld in Italy probably had been (again, unfortunately there are no official sales numbers available) the Sega Game Gear. The success was probably due to its sleek design and, especially, Giochi Preziosi constantly shoving it into Italian kids’ faces. Thinking back to 1991, a console featuring a full-color screen that also allowed one to watch TV was every kid’s dream, it could take away the boredom of visiting grandma.
Apparently, the toys company really bargained on Italian children wanting to watch television on the console, since they pushed the TV tuner accessory sometimes even more than the games themselves. This wasn’t an outlandish idea, considering that back in 1992 not all kids had a dedicated television in their rooms.
Naturally, this was a dream that came with a hefty price tag: it costed almost double the price of a Game Boy, around 260 in today’s euros or dollars. But even still, Game Gear had a clear advantage on the Game Boy: like a classic Hollywood actor or, perhaps more appropriately, an Eighties US President, it looked good on television. Game Boy was difficult to show properly because of its black and white screen, hence it ended up being rarely featured and shown on TV.
The commercials picked up on the color LCD screen of the Gear quickly, showing how good the screen looked, while in reality, it was nowhere near as simple to watch TV on a small handheld console stuck on a 160×146 resolution. Nonetheless, Bertè tells me it sold very well, remaining one of Sega’s biggest successes in Italy well into the mid-90s.
The same fate, naturally, wasn’t shared by the Sega Pico, a little-known educational video game console that was also marketed in Italy but never made much of a dent saleswise. In December of 1993, the Mega Drive was still reigning sales together with the Super nintendo, being priced at around the 270€ mark.
Sonic Badge: futuristic promotion or scam?
The Sonic badge, or “baydge” as the commercials affectionately called it, was a pin badge bundled in with several Sega products. During the 1992 Christmas season, the pin gave buyers the chance to, apparently, win a Megadrive. Or an unrelated Karaoke machine. Why would one buy a Sega Megadrive to win another? The badge was also gifted to any kid who would buy three Sega “cassettes”, a Master System or, finally a Game Gear plus a TV Tuner.
Maybe it made sense for those Master System owners who wanted to upgrade to 16-bit? Even though the total price of three Master System games would not actually be very far from that of an actual Mega Drive. As the commercial below reminds us, all kinds of Sega “cassettes” could be won by participating in the contest; it was never clear which titles were up for grabs, though. Could you pick your titles? Would they be picked for you?
Other commercials showed how it all worked: by flicking a switch on the back of the badge, a “TV mode” could be activated so that, while watching television, the badge would light up and play a terrible rendition of Sonic’s theme. This meant that “YOU WON!” and could call in to claim the prize(s). But, it is doubtful that any kid ever won anything, and after browsing page after page of old Sega forums nothing has turned up, even after all these years.
The contest seemed to not only be weirdly convoluted, even by Preziosi’s standards, but also incredibly expensive to run. Still, it makes perfect sense if one thinks about it: an elaborate attempt to get children to tune in regularly to Berlusconi’s kids programs during the afternoon and even stay put during commercials. Thus killing two birds with one stone: selling Preziosi’s Sega consoles, even before the Christmas season, while keeping kids glued to Berlusconi’s TV channels.
Berté tells me that the badge contest was short-lived; GP was cited for fraud and unfair competition, having to quickly withdraw the contest. He tells me “their competitor is probably to blame”, even though GiG denies ever bringing up anything against their campaign. A fair amount of Sonic badges remained unsold and it’s not uncommon to find them on eBay.
Weirdly enough, Jerry Carlà is not the only connection between forgotten Italian comedic actors and Sega. In the 1998 movie “Cucciolo”, a sort of bad take on the Robin Williams’ movie Jack, another notorious Italian actor, Massimo Boldi, demands to be taken to SegaWorld, the now-defunct indoor theme housed within the Trocadero complex in London, UK.
Here’s a few stills from the long montage, featuring the then middle-aged actor pretending to play Sega games and crazily shouting “SEGA WORLD! SEGA WORLD!”
Usa Today: Sega gets its own TV program
An interesting chapter in the history of Giochi Preziosi (and Sega) is how they ended up producing the first TV show about videogames to ever be ever broadcast on Italian television. The program was called Usa Today, an infotainment show first produced by the Odeon television network and, later, by Preziosi’s company. I’ve reached out to former host and creator Stefano Gallarini, who kindly answered my questions.
The show was originally conceived by network producer Ernesto Tabarelli who, on the advice of his son (an avid gamer), made a phone call to Xenia, which at the time was publishing some among the best-selling videogame magazines in Italy. Gallarini, then editor for The Games Machine and Consolemania magazines, answered the call. Tabarelli told him he needed someone to host a short section of the show, that he wanted to dedicate to video games.
Gallarini was interested but soon realized he would be the only one to answer the casting call. Most of the staff at the time were “nerdy kids”, he recalls with a laugh, “at the time, there was no way nerds actually wanted to talk about games, they just wanted to play them!“. Stefano had already worked on television and theater, so he had the right amount of guts and charisma. Even though there was already a host, the producer insisted on Gallarini actually running the whole show by himself.
The show ran approximately from 1991 to 1995, with Gallarini hosting it until 1993.
In the first edition (episode shown above), Marco Auletta – one of the journalists for TGM – was also brought on board, clearly showing the reason why an average “nerd” could never really host a program. Along with talking about games from the Amiga and Commodore 64, Usa Today was a program about “what’s going on in the United States today” – hence the name – it also focused on sports imported from the US (skateboarding, windsurfing, etc), music and movies.
He tells me they never used a script: improvisation was the name of the game. He would actually record a whole week’s worth of shows in the space of a single morning. Naturally, Gallarini had the advantage of working for a video game magazine, thus having all the necessary information coming straight from The Games Machine and Consolemania‘s editorial staff. Then, Giochi Preziosi happened.
Gallarini recalls that things happened fast, with people being ushered in to act as his co-hosts and (Berlusconi’s) Reteitalia working behind the scenes. The shift is clearly noticeable even without subtitles: the videogame segment switched from talking about Amiga and PC to being exclusively focused on Sega consoles. Basically nothing more than a long advertisement for the company, along with in-jokes and puns between the two co-hosts that, probably, went completely over the heads of many children that would be watching.
Definitely, a “Youtube before Youtube” kind of deal, as Stefano defined it.
I’ve been meaning to ask Stefano why Giochi Preziosi needed so much advertising space for Sega: they already had three channels almost fully dedicated to it. Stefano says he never really had any direct contact with anyone from the toys company but, then again, also confirms he never had much pressure to talk about any specific game. Even though abandoning the other platforms was a mandatory choice, he still retained relative freedom on what to talk about.
Then, in 1994, Stefano went to work for Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Usa Today died soon after. Still, he affirms he never gave up on trying to make programs about videogames but could never gather enough interest around such a project. Even as late as two years ago, there was a last attempt with Discovery Channel but, in the end, nothing came to fruition. Nowadays Stefano works in radio and has his own YouTube channel where he talks, of course, about games. He says he’s got way more time to play videogames now than back in 1992.
Preziosi starts to lose interest
By 1994 things for Sega began to shift for the worse. Their attempts to market the Mega CD and 32X in Italy were pretty much ignored by the general public, I’ve never even seen them being sold in shops, nor met anyone who owned it. I remember clearly their previous commercials with Calà and Zenga, but don’t remember seeing anything about the MegaCD. Then again, the infamous CD add-on was priced at what would today equate to roughly 600 euros or dollars, a crazy sum to spend on a gaming console with such a limited selection of titles available. The dolce vita spending power was rock bottom during that decade.
During the same time, Super Nintendo was doing fine, thanks to great marketing support by GiG, with Giochi Preziosi finally left behind in the race against their competitor, at least in the videogame market. When Playstation hit stores, in Autumn of 1995, things got even worse. In the summer of that same year, the Sega Saturn was released in Italy, receiving moderate support by Giochi Preziosi, this meant that did the bare minimum to advertise it and got minimum results too. Sega had no hope to ever going back to the glory days of Christmas 1992.
A random opening jingle suited for a news broadcast and stock gameplay footage is all they had. Everything is pretty much dull and ordinary: “here’s the console kids, buy it”, way of thinking. The Giochi Preziosi company’s name and logo are only briefly shown but not even mentioned, by that time, they probably had realized the brand did not mean much to kids anymore. Saturn at launch was also fairly expensive, costing close to 600 in today’s Euros or Dollars.
That same year Shigeru Hayashi also left Sega of Europe, and the relationship between the two companies (Sega and GP) seemed to soon begin to deteriorate. In the space of a few years, Sega went from being advertised everythere on television, to all but disappearing from the public eye. On this matter, Berté doesn’t seem (or want) to remember much, but he does confirm that Preziosi started cutting the budget for Sega’s marketing after 1995. Clearly, the company didn’t even want to try to fight against Playstation’s out-of-this-world commercials. GiG at least tried, as ridiculous as their attempts were, Preziosi seemed content in making generic and plain advertising.
Dreamcast and the end of Sega
The Dreamcast in Italy seemed to suffer an even worse fate. Research on those last few years between 1998 and 2001 yields even less news than 1986. Apparently, in 1998, Giochi Preziosi and Sega were in the final days of their ten years distribution agreement: the Dreamcast commercials were translated and imported to Italy but, apparently, never broadcast on television. Bigben Interactive, the distributor of the 128bit console in the UK, France and Germany, would step in at the last moment, but by 2000 it was already too late. Still, Dreamcast managed to enjoy a brief moment of success in Italy, thanks in large part to the still strong Sega fanbase, along with some distribution problems in the early days of PlayStation 2.
Curiously enough, the Sega Dreamcast shares one more bit of trivia with the Nintendo marketing in Italy of the same period: the Dreamcast would also appear on an Italian soccer team’s shirt. The deal, obviously, did not come from Giochi Preziosi, who at the time had already left the building, it was a direct sponsorship between the Sampdoria team and Sega of Europe that also involved other important European soccer teams like Arsenal, Deportivo de la Coruña and St.Etienne.
Comparing it to “GiG Nintendo” as the jersey sponsor for Fiorentina, it is curious to note how the Sampdoria shirt doesn’t even show the company name, but only “Dreamcast”, in a desperate attempt by SoE to improve sales of the console. As history proved, that hardly made a difference and only lasted for a single season: by 2001 the Dreamcast had bit the dust and SEGA left the console market for good.
As a hardcore Sega fan myself, even though I only owned the Sega Master System as a child, research for this article felt like taking a dive into a deep pool of repressed memories. It is strange to realize how Sega’s history is closely related to that of Berlusconi, especially back when he had yet to step into politics and was still “just” a business mogul that controlled half of the Italian TV networks. On one hand, Sega was obviously profiting from the huge advertising budgets provided by Giochi Preziosi in the early 90s. On the other, it seemed that Sega became victim of its very own overexposure. When Nintendo and GiG finally took off, after 1993, it really did feel like a breath of fresh air for many players.
Naturally, Giochi Preziosi is not to blame for Saturn being a relative failure and the Dreamcast launch being so muddled, it pretty much reflects what was happening with Sega worldwide. Still, it is kind of sad to see how quickly Sega fell from grace, after being for so many years in the hearts of so many children. Nonetheless, Sega’s Italian fanbase remains strong to this day, not afraid of making its voice heard and forever hoping that Sega will one day make a comeback into the home console realm.
Well, let’s hope that – looky-looky – it will be a Giochi Preziosi exclusive.
Many thanks to Giuliano Doccioli, Stefano Gallarini and Mauro Zaccaria for their time and providing unpublished information about Sega in Italy. Also thanks to Dario Bertè for the information provided and to Andrea Pachetti for the helpful info and collaboration.
Thank you for reading.
If you wish to help keep the website alive and running, be sure to check out my patreon or offer me a coffee.
Hello and congratulations for you detailed research, you’ve put a lot of effort researching for Sega italian history. But I have to point out an important “typo” in your article, it is really important because you’ve written that the first distributor of Sega home computers in Italy was MELICONI, that is an important and real brand in Italy but NEVER imported SEGA. The real brand was similar in name but was MELCHIONI. MELCHIONI was the first official distributor of ATARI in Italy, before the birth of ATARI ITALIA. When ATARI enter directly the italian market (in 1983) MELCHIONI need to find an alternative for continuing to be in the home videogame market and select SEGA as a brand. Bad luck wanted that in 1983/84 the italian home computer market was dominated by COMMODORE that force to cease quite all the other distributor in this market like MELCHIONI.
Yeah I was just correcting it, that was a mistake on my part that I never got around to correct, I did indeed thought it sounded strange to me that Meliconi would be involved haha. I’ve also gone ahead and added some more information thanks to Andrea Pachetti. Thanks for pointing that out! 🙂
I’m italian and i can only thank you for this very accurate and passionate essay.
Thank you Paolo for reading! 🙂
E’ stato davvero un piacere leggere questo articolo! Sarebbe bello se scrivessi qualcosa del genere per controparte Nintendo e Gig!