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|Type||Video game console|
|Units sold||1.5 million – 2 million|
|CPU||MOS Technology 6502|
Dendy (Russian: Де́нди) is a Taiwanese hardware clone of the Family Computer (the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System), produced for the Russian market. It was released in the early 1990s by the Steepler company. Since no officially licensed version of the NES was ever released in the former USSR, the Dendy was easily the most popular video game console of its time in that region and enjoyed a degree of fame roughly equivalent to that experienced by the NES/Famicom in North America and Japan. In 1992, Dendy was selling in Russia for 39,000 rubles (roughly 70–80 USD); by 1994, over one million Dendy units were sold in Russia, and the price was roughly $35.
The Dendy first appeared on the market in late 1992, selling at the price of 39,000 rubles ($94). The console had its own animated Russian television advertisement with the phrase "Dendy, Dendy! We all love Dendy! Dendy – everyone plays!" Later shifted to the phrasing "Dendy - the new reality". Demand for the console was very high, bringing attention to the console. By April 1993, Steepler had four regional distributors and had generated 500 million rubles in revenue.
The Dendy elephant logo was designed by Russian animator Ivan Maximov.
Though Steepler quickly filled a nearly empty niche, the Western gaming market still was not interested in Russia at the time. For a while, the Dendy's main competitors were similar products from China. It was not until 1994 that a competitor, the Sega console produced by Nisho Iwai and Forrus, was introduced to the market.
Steepler reorganized in early 1994, resulting in the separation and creation of the Lamport company, which later manufactured the Kenga, another SNES Clone.
By mid-1994, Steepler had already sold 1 million Dendy consoles and was selling between 100,000 and 125,000 more per month with a revenue of $5 million. At this time, the price of the consoles had dropped to roughly $30–$35.
In August 1994, Incombank and Steepler announced plans to start up a joint business venture called Dendy, in which Incombank would contribute capital and receive 30% of profits. At the end of 1994, two more Dendy rivals (also NES clones) appeared: the Kenga, manufactured by Lamport, and the Bitman, distributed by R-Style and Subor (Сюбор).
In November 1994, the newly created Dendy company signed an agreement with Nintendo, in which they were forbidden from promoting Sega products and given exclusive distribution rights to the SNES in Russia.
Modern Dendy consoles, which can still be found alongside Chinese products in many markets, are manufactured in China and have no relation to the Steepler company, which discontinued operations in 1996. According to one version, Steepler signed a contract with Nintendo agreeing to sell not only consoles, but game cartridges as well. Given that licensed cartridges cost several times more than pirated ones, Steepler soon found that it was unable to sell them profitably, resulting in the company's demise.
The technical specifications of the Dendy are mostly consistent with those of the PAL version of the NES, but there are some differences in design and execution.
- 6527P, Ricoh 2A03-compatible. 8-bit, 1.773447 MHz.
The exact chipset and implementation differed depending on the model and time of release (while maintaining software compatibility). Most often in the console were two chips manufactured by UMC — UA6527P (CPU) and UA6538 (PPU), which have been integrated to be compatible with the 6502 processor and the rest of the logic. Later editions consolidated the design of all previous implementations into a single, open-frame chip.
- Built-in pAPU, 5 channels.
No Dendy cartridges were made which would contain battery-backed saves. No games that relied on that were sold, like most long RPGs.
Dendy was produced in two main configurations: Dendy Classic and Dendy Junior. They have different console and controller designs. The Dendy Classic I and II models were rebranded variations of the Micro Genius IQ-501 and IQ-502 respectively, manufactured by TXC Corporation in Taiwan. The Dendy Junior was designed to resemble the Famicom. These are then divided into more subconfigurations, like Dendy Junior II, Dendy Junior IIP, Dendy Junior IVP, Dendy Classic II which may not be completely consistent between batches or regions.
Dendy has two video outputs, RF- (antenna) output, preset on Russia's second main television channel frequency, and composite RCA. Some consoles can be compatible with the PAL television standard, others with SECAM. Both the Classic and Junior variants may have one or two controllers packed in the box, with controllers being also sold separately. (Other designs of the gamepads were present in the market, different shapes including resembling that of the Sega Genesis.)
"Junior" gamepads can have front- or side-outcoming cable, and on the part of the console hard-wired or detachable. The sockets could be front or side. (Always side on Classic.) Systems with hard-wired controllers always had two of them, with an additional socket for light gun.
The Junior may or may not have Start and Select buttons on the second controller, but it does have turbo buttons. They never have a microphone. Classic's pads always have Start and Select, and also always have turbo buttons. The turbo speed, according to advertising booklets by Steepler, differs, the Junior being 7 repeats per second, Classic 20 per second. The Dendies with a P suffix in their name include a light gun.
Cartridges look very similar to the original Famicom (the Japanese origin of the NES) cartridges. Just like with the Famicom, the original NES cartridges are mechanically incompatible with the Dendy console due to a different form factor of the PCB and the outer hull. Most of the games sold for Dendy consoles have been bootlegs or copies of classic NES games. Among them are multicarts, sometimes with a few games replicated many times or separated by levels with ability to choose any of them, sometimes with the sprites or maps slightly altered. There are very few original Russian, Taiwanese or Chinese products, as they are most notable for pirated and bootlegged products. Among the games is the Super Mario Bros. series, which includes the three original Mario productions from Nintendo, along with a series of unlicensed Mario games, most of which are just other Famicom games with the main character replaced with Mario sprites. Examples of an originally programmed (but still trademark-infringing) game include the infamous Somari, which is a port of Sonic the Hedgehog with Sonic's sprite replaced by Mario's, and another one is the unlicensed 8-bit clone of the SNES's Super Mario World game.
Dendy prices during 1992 began at 39,000 rubles (roughly $94). In relation to contemporary income levels, prices in this range were the equivalent of several months' salary, and this effectively put the Dendy out of reach of most individuals. As sales increased, however, Steepler was able to reduce prices such that by 1994 with over one million Dendy units sold, the price had dropped to roughly $35.
- Pichugin, Igor Z. "Steepler начал продавать Dendy — Московская фирма начинает большую видеоигру". Kommersant. 18 December 1992.
- "Полугодовые итоги по бизнесу Dendy — К "русскому Nintendo" добавилась японская Sega" [Talk of Japanese competitor Sega entering Russian market] (in Russian). Kommersant. July 19, 1994. Retrieved 2010-03-26.
- Мелкооптовая торговля [Small-scale wholesale] (in Russian). Kommersant. 21 December 1992. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Обзор российского рынка видеоигр — Бурный рост приводит к аномалиям [Russian market sees explosion in demand for video games] (in Russian). Kommersant. 14 April 1993. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- В "новой реальности" главное выбрать верные ориентиры [It is most important to pick right guide for the 'new reality'] (in Russian). Kommersant. 29 October 1994. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Реклама: казнить нельзя помиловать [Talk of battle for video game console market being merciless] (in Russian). Kommersant. 26 November 1994. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Schillinger, Liesl. "News - Forum: The death of childhood in Russia." The Ottawa Citizen. Pg.B3. 24 October 1993.
- Toohey, Nathan. "Retro-kitsch in Moscow's time machine." The Moscow News. 11 March 2010.
Media related to Dendy (console) at Wikimedia Commons