Steepler Graphic Center's logo.
|Consoles||Dendy Classic, Dendy Junior, imported official and unofficial consoles|
|Aliases||The Dendy Company (informal)|
|Related companies||TXC Corp., Subor|
Steepler Ltd. was a Moscow IT company founded in late 1990, mainly known for distributing the Micro Genius console series in Russia, alongside a slew of unlicensed Famicom cartridges, under the Dendy brand. Steepler's appearance on the video game market of the former USSR was accompanied by a rather large advertisement campaign that featured TV and press coverage, including the Dendy: The New Reality weekly show and the Video-Uss Dendy magazine. Despite shutting their doors in 1996, they've singlehandedly managed to eliminate the technological gap between Russia and first-world countries, and their impact on the local IT industry was so huge that some of the company's spin-offs still operate to this day.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1991: Establishment A.K.A. Subor
- 1.2 1992: IT expansion, the beginnings of Dendy
- 1.3 1993: The Dendy magazine, fame and fortune
- 1.4 1994: Dendy: The New Reality, partnership with Nintendo
- 1.5 1995: More TV shows, the magazine split
- 1.6 1996: Mir Dendy, animated short, eventual decline
- 1.7 1997-1998 Fate of Dendy
- 2 Key people
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Products sold
- 5 Media
- 6 Gallery (Hardware)
1991: Establishment A.K.A. Subor
Steepler Ltd. was founded in between December 1990 and January 1991 by a few Moscow State University alumni: Andrey Cheglakov, Maxim Selivanov, Vladislav Undeyev and Rustem Ahiyarov, joined by Michael Riner who invested over $2,000,000 into the company. A few other people have worked in the company since shortly after its' foundation, including Andrey Andreev, Viktor Savyuk and Maxim Kononenko.
At the time, Steepler was supplying electronics and developing all kinds of IT projects for regional businesses, like computerized banking systems, or translating Windows 3.1 to Russian. Moreover, they were Hewlett-Packard's sole official distributor in the country, and most of Steepler's automated systems were in fact based on HP's hardware.
Steepler's business has already kept growing further, to the point where they had to create several spin-off companies, which includes Steepler Graphic Center (2D and 3D graphics and modelling; also notable for selling their spreadsheet program, Spider, to Corel at one point) and Steepler Trade (office equipment vendor, would eventually become a company of its' own, as Lamport).
1992: IT expansion, the beginnings of Dendy
For nearly a decade, the video game industry outside of former Soviet Union was thriving, but what was happening on the inside was rather limited: the arcade machines from several years ago were slowly wearing out, while most households possessed either a Game & Watch clone from Elektronika, or one among many ZX Spectrum clones, along with a tape deck. Those who were more fortunate had a clone of Atari 2600 with a few built-in games, an unbranded Chinese famiclone or, in rare cases, a proper IBM-compatible computer.
Steepler's computer business was in full bloom, as their financial turnover was above $15,000,000.
By the end of the year, the company stroke a deal with TXC to sell their Famicom hardware clones, called Micro Genius, under Steepler's own newly-established brand, Dendy. It was decided that, after the $1,000,000 investment, Micro Genius and TXC's names should not be disclosed in relation to this contract.
The brand's mascot, appropriately called Dendy the Elephant, was designed by Ivan Maximov, an animator and director, known by this point for his surreal short animated film, Provinicial School. Supposedly, he also animated Dendy for the brand's first commercial video.
Around December, Steepler also launched a set of TV commercials to build hype for Dendy's initial release, which were rolling for at least a month. Then the commercials began to list Steepler's hotline number, culminating in an overwhelming number of calls from all over Russia.
1993: The Dendy magazine, fame and fortune
The advertisement campaign was expanded further, with the introduction of the Dendy magazine, as made by the Video-Uss (roughly translated as "Video Ace") publishing house. Since 1990, Video-Uss has been printing a series of magazines dedicated to film - as well as one for computer games - and the house's owner, Vladimir Borev, already had contacts with Hachette Filipacchi Presse, based in France. As Video-Uss didn't have much experience in writing about video games, some of the early material was initially translated from HFP's two publications, Joypad and Joystick, while the original articles leaned more towards movies than they did to games.
In the span of one year, Dendy has gone from a single brand store on Krasnaya Presnya Street in Moscow to 350 stores all across the Commonwealth of Independent States, only 35 of which were fully authorized and provided all needed warranty support.
The company has started talks with Nissho Iwai who wanted to choose Steepler as a distributor of Sega in former USSR countries. Unfortunately, the conversations were unsuccessful.
Steepler's financial turnover at this point in time was $40,000,000.
1994: Dendy: The New Reality, partnership with Nintendo
After keeping a deal with Micro Genius for many months, Steepler decided they should move all the manufacturing to Russia to save costs, which resulted in them purchasing the Tenzor instrument engineering plant, located in the city of Dubna. Along with that, after Steepler completely reorganized their assets, their retailer network, Steepler Trade, was reformed into a completely new company, Lamport.
Steepler expanded its range with Sega products. Some came from an official source and some were clones or consoles imported from other countries, such as Japan. Mega Drive sold very well and the company sold around 4,000 consoles per month.
Since September, Sorec-Video, sponsored by Steepler, started producing Dendy: The New Reality, a half-an-hour weekly TV show hosted by the late Sergei Suponev. The show's first season has been broadcasted on 2X2 channel for approximately a year, taking 33 episodes total.
In August, Incombank and Steepler set up a new company called Dendy.
In November, Steepler signed a contract with Nintendo, according to which the company became a representative of Nintendo in all countries of the former USSR. In Russia and CIS countries, Dendy was chosen as an exclusive distributor. Dendy was also supposed to have limits on sales of Sega consoles, while Steepler could sell them as much as wants.
The delivery of Super Nintendo and Game Boy to Russia from Germany began.
1995: More TV shows, the magazine split
Dendy signs another exclusivity deal, this time with Subor, which grants the former the rights to distribute latter's 8-bit consoles all across the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Dendy: The New Reality's initial run has ended, as the show moved to ORT, with its' production handed over to Klass!, for the second season. After the overwhelming success of the last year's Dendy: The New Reality, Sergei Suponev returns as both the host and scriptwriter.
Steepler decided to fund another TV show, probably because of how they didn't quite leave the PC market yet, and because of how popular Dendy: The New Reality turned out to be. Ott Vinta! (lit. "Taking Off!", "vint" can also be used as a slang word for a hard disk drive) was hosted by Anton Zaicev and Boris Repetur, playing the roles of Gameover and Bonus respectively. Despite the show's cult classic status, it went through a slew of financial, networking and creative difficulties post-Steepler, before going into hiatus in 1998 and resurfacing in 2014.
The magazine funds, on the other hand, were severely cut, which resulted in Video-Uss Dendy to be split into two different magazines. The New one called Dendy: The New Reality just like TV show have only few issue, supposedly because of its' unreadable and near-psychedelic approach to page design. The other branch, titled Velikiy Drakon (also referred to as Great Dragon), remained operational up until 2003.
1996: Mir Dendy, animated short, eventual decline
After a while, the second season of Dendy: The New Reality turned into a weekly clip show, until it went off air completely, due to Suponev having contractual obligations with NTV. Because of that, Steepler gave the concept of a TV show about games another try, with Mir Dendy (The World of Dendy), hosted by Semyon Furman, a prolific theatre and film actor, and a much younger Anton Gvozdyov. After Suponev's very successful run as a host, the critical reception to Mir Dendy wasn't very positive. Suponev, however, was reinvited to the show once, to host the finals of the Steepler-funded Killer Instinct tournament. Nevertheless, the ratings for the show were really low, hence why Mir Dendy was pulled off the TV after only a few episodes.
A twelve-minute animated short titled "Adventures of Elephant Dendy" (Приключения слоненка Dendy) was produced by Argus International in 1996, under license from Steepler. The cartoon is about Dendy the Elephant fighting against criminal rats attacking the city. It is unknown where the short aired or how it was originally distributed.
Steepler Ltd. ceased all production of its' own this year, for no officially disclosed reason. The most reasonable explanation to what really happened, however, was provided by Forbes Magazine in 2004: after Steepler announced they got carte blanche to automate the Russian State Duma, they were threatened by the Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information. Said threat was followed by several key members of the company being heavily injured, complete with one of them being ran over by a car. Fearing for their lives, the remains of Steepler's board of directors decided to leave the country immediately.
Despite the fall of the giant, it was not the end yet. The Dendy company itself remained, continuing its activity in the sale of consoles. The assortment has been extended with such consoles as Sega Saturn. Dendy has also become an authorized Sony PlayStation dealer.
1997-1998 Fate of Dendy
The company did not perform well. The number of sellers dropped drastically and brand stores were located only in Moscow now. In stores, in small quantities, Game Boy Pocket and Nintendo 64 appeared, but they did not gain much popularity. The last big undertaking was Bonza, a gambling game released by Dendy on Sega Mega Drive, Dendy and small special portable consoles. In 1998, the company collapsed due to the financial crisis in Russia.
A surprising amount of Steepler's spin-off companies (or entities initially funded by them or lead by its' former employees) continue to operate today, with Steepler Graphic Center being the only one to be named after its' parent.
- Dendy Classic
- Dendy Junior
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
- Game Boy
- Game Boy Pocket
- Nintendo 64
- The Virtual Boy was planned to be released by Steepler, but was canceled, as was all European distribution for the platform (due to its massive failure in other regions). However, the imported version could be purchased for a special order.
- Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)- Steepler also possessed the rights for the original NES, but chose not to release it due to being effectively identical to the Dendy.
- PRO 16-Bit (bootleg Sega Genesis clone)
- Sega Mega Drive II
- Panasonic 3DO
- Sega Genesis CDX
- Sega Saturn
Video-Uss Dendy magazine
Dendy: The New Reality
- Main article: Dendy: The New Reality