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The Amazing Story Of How One Man's Fib Created A Nintendo Empire

If you're a Scandinavian resident then there's an excellent chance that the name Bergsala will mean a great deal to you. This company has been instrumental in distributing and marketing Nintendo's products in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and, more recently, became an investor in SteamWorld creator Image & Form and its associated publishing arm, Thunderful. Bergsala is, at the time of writing, the only Nintendo distributor not owned by Nintendo – and the most incredible thing is that the whole relationship was started with a lie.

This excellent feature on IGN covers the story in great detail, and we recommend you give it a read. For the short (and less interesting) version, listen up. Back in 1981, Swedish electronics store owner Owe Bergsten spotted one of Nintendo's Game & Watch handhelds during a trip to Singapore. He wanted to not only sell the LCD game in his shop, but to distribute the product all over Europe. To get to this point, he fibbed to Nintendo in Japan that he owned a business with the contacts and network capable of achieving such a lofty goal, when in reality, his fledgeling outfit was anything but.

While he might have been economical with the truth, Bergsten's instinct was spot-on and after selling out of his initial order of 30,000 Game & Watch units, he was soon shifting 180,000 a month. By 1983, 1.7 million Game & Watches had been sold in Sweden alone – a country with a population of around 8.3 million people at the time.

When Game & Watch demand dropped off, Bergsten turned his attention to the Famicom, which had just launched in Japan. He was so sure that it would be a success in Europe and he convinced Nintendo to allow him to release a specially-modified variant of the Japanese console, but it never happened because, by that point, Nintendo had decided it was going to release the Famicom in the west as the NES (a move which, you could argue, was instigated in some small part by Bergsten's faith in the console). Bergsala also created the Nintendo Videospelklubb, a precursor to the Club Nintendo newsletter Nintendo of America released – another of Bergsten's many claims to fame.

Today, Bergsala controls Nintendo's business in Scandinavia, and for many players who grew up in that part of the world, is just as important a name as Nintendo, Sony, Sega or Microsoft. It's interesting to think about how Nintendo's presence in Europe could have turned out so much differently had Owe Bergsten not told the little white lie that netted him an empire.


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