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GRA.DI. S.r.l. is an Italian distribution company from Milan active during the late 80s/early 90s, and it's mainly known for importing Taiwanese clone consoles in Italy, namely the Matra 3600 (an Atari 2600 Jr. clone) and several Micro Genius consoles.

History[]

The earliest activities of GRA.DI. as an importer supposedly begin in 1989, when they imported in Italy a Taiwanese clone of the Atari 2600 Jr. that they named Matra 3600.

According to their company info stated on the products, they were first located in Piazzale Dateo 6, in Milan, but at some point in time (possibly during the early 90s, likely 1991) they moved offices a small distance away, in Corso Plebisciti 19. These were seemingly just small management offices, and so everything else might have been either outsourced or made directly through the manufacturers in Taiwan.

After the release of some Micro Genius famiclones, the company seemingly ceased its operations, at least in the videogame market.

Products[]

Matra 3600[]

The Matra 3600 is an Atari 2600 Jr. clone originating from Taiwan, and is possibly GRA.DI.'s first product, with a plausible first release date of 1989[1]. It is described on the box as an "Atari-compatible videogame" ("Videogioco compatibile Atari" in Italian).

Matra 3600 seems to be a custom brand created by GRA.DI. specifically for the console, and their name also appears on the labels under the consoles, although it's likely that this is just a rebrand of some random Taiwanese 2600 Jr. clone.

It appears to have been for sale for quite some time, as evidenced by the high number of generically-rebranded Matra 3600 games and multicarts found over the years[2], and three "revisions" to the console:

  1. the earliest consoles were manufactured by Taiwanese company MAX'ER Technologies Inc.[3], and an 8-in-1 multicart was bundled with the console.
  2. at some point the 8 games started to be included in the console's internal memory (possibly to replace the cartridge for both practicality and cost). The manufacturer was still MAX'ER.
  3. around 1991 (?) there was a switch in manufacturers; the new Matras were being built by Taiwanese company Kingway Electronics Ltd., still with 8 games in memory (albeit a different selection). This change in manufacturing seems to coincide with GRA.DI.'s address change (i.e. Piazzale Dateo is mentioned alongside MAX'ER's name and Corso Plebisciti alongside Kingway's) but it's unknown if they're actually related or not.

The cartridges were a random assortment of pirated single games and multicarts, sold in generic Matra 3600-branded cardboard boxes with the number of games included on the front and sides and a sticker with the game title(s) on the back.

According to the production info on the lower back of the boxes, all the games were manufactured in Taiwan by both MAX'ER and Kingway (not together), possibly during their respective run at manufacturing by supplying both the consoles and its cartridges at the same time, even though the vast array of different cartridge shapes and labels included in said boxes seems to prove otherwise. The last cartridges just bear a "Manufactured in Taiwan" with no company names tied to it.

The only specific localizations were the console's box and manual, and aside for the generic boxes the games were left untouched as they left Taiwan, also no game descriptions or manuals were ever included.

Micro Genius[]

GRA.DI. also imported Micro Genius famiclones in the early 90s, namely models IQ-701 (72-pin, confirmed) as "Micro Genius" and IQ-501 Perfect (bundled with 72-to-60 pin converter, unconfirmed) as "Baby Micro Genius".

Instead of (possibly) rebranding an existing console, the Micro Genius branding was left intact (TXC logos and everything), and like the Matra most of the localization consisted of just the console's box and manual.

Sachen[]

Possibly alongside the release of the first (72-pin) IQ-701, GRA.DI. imported some standalone Sachen games with a new (again, generic) Sachen-branded box.

The boxes seem to be custom generic boxes like the Matra ones, but this time they include a blank space on the front where a copy of the cartridge label gets affixed to indicate what game is inside. They also include a fold-out tag on the back to hang them up for display. They are described as a "Nintendo-compatible game cartridge" ("Cartuccia gioco compatibile Nintendo" in Italian) on the front of the box. There are no game descriptions anywhere and the manuals are in (poorly written) English.

The company info on the back features a statement regarding the product's (lack of) licensing:

This game has been created and developed by TAIWAN SACHEN without the technical participation of NINTENDO CO LTD, Japan.

Because the Sachen brand is clearly displayed (and mentioned) on the box (and a specifically designed one at that) it's possible that GRA.DI. might've possibly been (or planned to be) an official Sachen distributor in Italy, or at least had some ties with them, but nothing more is currently known about that.

Gallery[]

Trivia[]

  • GRA.DI.'s former and latter office locations in Milan are roughly 400m apart.
  • Instead of selling their products in usual places like toy stores or computer shops, GRA.DI. seemed to cater to smaller, local markets, possibly through cash-and-carry chain stores like Metro.

References[]

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