Saturday, May 4, 2019

Gaming Ads: Sierra On-Line

Founded in 1979 as On-Line Systems by Roberta and Ken Williams, the game developer was originally based in California. It was renamed to Sierra On-Line in 1982 and moved its headquaters to Bellevue, Washington in 1993. The Williams' plan was to create a text-based adventure but instead of only being text, they'd add images to enhance the experience. Released in 1980, Sierra's first game was called Hi-Res Adventure #1: Mystery House. Although it did publish a wide variety of games, such as sports, card, and licensed Disney games, the company became quite well known for its adventure titles. The most popular Sierra series is undoubtedly King's Quest that ran from 1984 to 1998, and the original had an episodic modern release in 2015 from The Odd Gentlemen.

Other notable series that were sometimes or always published by Sierra or one of its subsidiaries include Caesar, Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, Space Quest, SWAT, NASCAR Racing, Tribes, and You Don't Know Jack. Sierra On-Line went public in 1990 and expanded throughout the decade via a number of acquisitions: Dynamix (1990), Bright Star Technologies (1992), Coktel-Vision (1993), Papyrus Design Group (1995), Impressions Games (1995), Print Artist (from The Pixellite Group - 1995), Green Thumb Software (1995), Arion Software (1995), Synergistic Software (1996), Headgate Studios (1996), PyroTechnix (1997), Berkley Systems (1997), and Books That Work (1997). The company also created a number of publishing labels in the '90s, such as Sierra Attractions, Sierra Home, Sierra FX, Sierra Sports, and Sierra Studios. However, Sierra itself was purchased by CUC International in 1996 and then Havas Interactive in 1999.

Being a fan of Dynamix, I'd say the acquisition by Havas Interactive, which became Vivendi Universal Publishing in 2001, was the beginning of the end of Sierra. Dynamix was shut down in 2001, Impressions and Papyrus both closed in 2004, and the company went through a number of changes in the early 2000s. The time of making hit adventure games had long passed as Sierra was primarily publishing at this point and many of its games were average at best. While I don't want to get into the whole history of Vivendi, the Universal portion of the name is the company that owned Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon so Sierra was publishing those games but they were no longer being made by the original developers. In 2008 Vivendi merged with Activision and the Sierra name faded away until 2014 when it was brought back as a publishing label for digital game releases. I'm not sure if the new Sierra is even still releasing games as its website is out of date and I've not seen the name used in a couple years now.

Sierra On-Line albums: Facebook - Google Photos

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