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.
1991: Establishment Edit
Steepler Ltd. was founded inbetween 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 Edit
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 Edit
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. They have also started selling Sega Genesis/MegaDrive, alongside their clones and games compatible with those systems.
Steepler's financial turnover at this point in time was $40,000,000.
1994: Dendy: The New Reality, partnership with Nintendo Edit
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.
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 November, Steepler signs a deal with Nintendo, which gives them exclusive rights to sell products like Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy and Virtual Boy within the Commonwealth of Independent States, provided Steepler will cease advertising anything Sega-related. Due to that, Sega Genesis/MegaDrive disappeared from the Dendy TV show completely, but only for a few episodes. Not only that, but in order to avoid a potential lawsuit against Nintendo, Steepler proposes Lamport to stact production of their own famiclone, Kenga.
1995: More TV shows, the magazine split Edit
Steepler 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 one that kept the original title lasted for just a few issues, 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 2013.
1996: Mir Dendy, eventual decline Edit
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.
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.
Key people Edit
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.
Products sold Edit
Dendy Classic Edit
Dendy Junior Edit
PRO 16-Bit Edit
Sega Genesis / Mega Drive II Edit
Super Nintendo Entertainment System Edit
Nintendo Game Boy Edit
Nintendo Virtual Boy Edit
Panasonic 3DO Edit
Video-Uss Dendy magazine Edit
Dendy: The New Reality Edit
- Main article: Dendy: The New Reality