I originally thought Bit Corp was the only company involved in the Gamate. Their name was the only one on the packaging of anything I owned (other than the various European distributors) and in the games themselves, and they are usually the only company associated with the console whenever it's mentioned online. But! It's not quite as simple as that. Of course, nothing is ever what it seems - half the videogames in the world (more or less) are developed by Tose and hardly anyone had heard of them until a year or two ago. And the first thing that tipped me off to Bit not being solely responsible for the Gamate and all of its games was the console's page on Ultimate Console Database, featuring the following email from one David Yu, who was in Taiwan at the time of its launch:
Just read your review on Gamate. I remember when it was launched in Taiwan, they had quite a big promotional campaign. The advert was on mags, papers and even TV. I myself have seen 3 people who own it (all Taiwanese). However, when I look this console up in the Taiwanese site. The article claimed that its developped by the Taiwanese firm Dunhuang Tech!!!????? Then I went to Yahoo Taiwan and found this firm called Gamtec claim that they developed Gamate. Now I am confused.......
By the way, the Gamate games sold in Taiwan are all printed in Chinese.............
Also Gizmondo is priced in UK at £130!
£130 for a Gizmondo! Bloody hell. That aside, though, I've done some research on Gamtec and Dunhuang and their roles in the Gamate, and this is what I know so far:
UMC (& Dunhuang Technology/Funtech)
UMC (United Microelectronics Corp) is a large Taiwanese semiconductor company. According to the official history on their website, they were established in 1980, listed on the Taiwan stock exchange in 1985, then did NOTHING AT ALL until they "[began] transformation into a pure-play foundry" in 1995 (which the internet tells me means they only manufacture shit for other people now). The Gamate fits somewhere in these lost years... but how? well! First off, UMC chips seem to have been a fixture from the very earliest Gamates. Initially the main CPU was a UMC part; this later appears to have been replaced with an NCR chip marked "BIT" and a smaller UMC chip of unknown functions (you can see all of this on the hardware page).
But UMC's involvement wasn't limited to the supply of a couple of chips; it may well have been that way prior to 1992 (although it's certainly also possible that they collaborated with Bit right from the start, I can't say I'm sure either way), but for one reason or another, following the demise of Bit Corp, UMC took over the entire Gamate operation. There are a few visible signs of this transition; boxes with UMC stickers obscuring Bit's copyright (like Mars Voyage), and the interesting logo animation from Famous 7.
UMC continued to release new games after taking over; those produced under UMC (with the exception of relabelled Bit stock) adopt an entirely different label style, omitting any company game, production year and usually even the game title, with the only text being "GAMATE CARD C1-XXX" in an oval contained within a coloured bar at the bottom. They also changed the packaging, dropping the prestigious Gamate Seal of Quality™ :( and even introducing an entirely new logo, which you can see to the left. Those people who might snigger at the name of the console being "Gamate" might perhaps notice that this logo looks a bit like it says "Gamale", but I'm certainly far too mature to find that amusing. i definitely am. ha. ANYWAY It does appear that, although some of their games were still produced with English packaging and exported, UMC also refocused their efforts on their home market, or at least Chinese-speaking areas, where Bit had mostly targeted Europe and the US; several of the later titles listed here actually feature Chinese in-game text, while all Bit games are, to my knowledge, exclusively in English.
As for Dunhuang Technology, aka Funtech, this was a subsidiary of UMC famous(?) for the spectacular flop that was the Super A'can, after which it was closed down. Although I've never personally seen the Dunhuang/Funtech name on a Gamate product, it seems plausible that UMC used it in Taiwan at some point or another.
(oh but here's something strange. a lot of Gamate-related printed material has a code somewhere on it in a fairly recognisable format. something like XXYYYZZZZZ, where XX is either "IT" for "instructions" or "BX" for "box", YYY is either "CAR" for "card" or "GAM" for "Gamate" and ZZZZZ is a five-digit number. Super A'can stuff seems to continue this system; the cart labels all, in addition to the normal F-xxx product code, bear something like "STCARxxxxx" - presumably "ST" would stand for "sticker". Well, I thought it was interesting. but does that mean UMC/Funtech were involved from the start ... or did they just pick up Bit's print numbering system for the sake of convenience and then run with it for the A'can?)
Gamtec (and other developers)
Gamtec were a fairly prolific unlicensed developer for the NES, Mega Drive and Game Boy, although not many of their games ever saw release outside of Taiwan. Two of their most well-known games (and I use the term extremely loosely) were Fire Dragon for the NES, a Snake clone that's found its way onto a few pirate multicarts recently, and Squirrel King for the Mega Drive, which ended up being hacked into the infamous "Super Mario World" pirate. Some of their games are actually pretty good! But I'm not going into too much detail here, because there's this whole thing going on with Gamtec that just makes my head hurt. I've got some kind of Gamtec feature vaguely lined up though, so ...watch out, I suppose. Anyway, since then they've developed a few PC games, and now run what appears to be an online casino.
The only concrete Gamate connection I've found so far was on an archived copy of their website, which claimed something like they "developed Gamate", but the automatic translation from Chinese (which I don't speak a word of) was vague enough that I couldn't tell if they were saying they developed for the Gamate, or actually developed the console itself. They probably developed at least some of its games, though, given the website mention and the fact that several of the fonts match between certain Gamate games and known Gamtec games on other consoles. (pictured: Cosmic Fighter's "Game Over" vs the logo from the "Gamtec Magicard" cheat cartridge) These fonts come from the old DOS paint program "PC Paint" though, and their use in video games was by no means exclusive to Gamtec, so don't take their appearance as 100% confirmation. Although the company's name in their logo as it appears in said cartridge is in a yellow, italic, serif font, like the Gamate logo, and "Gamtec" really isn't that far off "Gamate". So. HMM.
There may well have been other developers involved during the Bit Corp era, but I couldn't put a name to any of them except Gamtec. After UMC took over, though, they seemed to continue using these original developers to make new games, or at least to finish those started under Bit (may i refer you to 7 Famous above, released in 1993), but they also brought in...
Hengmao was a company based in Xi'an, mainland China, and funded by Taiwanese investment (presumably UMC). They developed for both the Gamate and A'can, starting with the Gamate in 1990, and closed following the discontinuation of the A'can in 1995 having apparently worked on about 50 games; this would mean they were developing Gamate games for the entire lifetime of the console, including the Bit era, interestingly enough. They first came to my attention through a copyright registration of the game "Dinosaur Park" filed in 1994; this is one of the later UMC-era games with Chinese text only, which would lead me to believe that Hengmao developed the later Chinese-language games under UMC, although they may well have been responsible for others too. I just don't know! Damnit.
obviously all the above mentioned companies required distributors to get the Gamate out into the world, not having the facilities to do it themselves. some of these changed the packaging, others didn't. these included:
and that's it. there may have been more!
- Cheetah (UK)
- GIG (Italy)
- Uranium (Switzerland)
- Yeno (Germany)
- Alston (USA)