Sierra On-Line

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Established: 1980
Closed: 2001
Reason: Rebranded to Sierra Entertainment

The name Sierra On-Line emerged in 1980 following a rebrand from the company's former name, On-Line Systems. It began life when co-founder Ken Williams took on the daunting task of programming Roberta Williams' hand-written game concept into the first graphic-text adventure game ever created. Dubbed Mystery House, the game's marriage of text and graphics became the standard upon which all other graphics adventures were measured.

The new name reflected the company's move from Los Angeles to Oakhurst, California - located in the Sierra foothills. Soon after, Roberta created her second adventure game, The Wizard and the Princess, which sold more than sixty thousand copies, a substantial sell through for the early 1980s. Like her previous game, it set the industry standard for home computer entertainment.

The following years brought many similar successes. Sierra's most popular series, King's Quest, earned international recognition and numerous industry awards. To date the series has sold more than 3 million copies, making Roberta Williams one of the best-selling computer game designers in the industry.

Through its history, Sierra, holds an arsenal of best-selling games that can be directly attributed to some of the best-known names in computer game development. including: renowned designers Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry), David Lester (Lords of the Realm, Caesar), Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight), David Kaemmer (Indy Car, NASCAR Racing), Jeff Tunnell (The Incredible Machine), and Randy Dersham (Trophy Bass).

Going Public
In 1989, Sierra went public. By fiscal year 1995, revenues exceeded $80 million and Sierra's staff grew to more than 700 employees. With the acquisitions of several software publishers and the opening of international offices in Japan and England, Sierra has become a major worldwide publisher with distribution in more than 50 countries.

A series of acquisitions helped Sierra expand its development expertise into additional categories including sports, simulations, strategy, home productivity, and casual entertainment.

Founded in 1984 by Jeff Tunnell and Damon Slye, Dynamix initially developed titles for other publishers, such as Electronic Arts, Activision, and Mediagenic. Shortly after becoming a member of the Sierra family in 1990, Dynamix expanded its product line to include: Stellar 7, A-10 Tank Killer, the multi-award winning Red Baron, Aces of the Pacific, and Aces over Europe. In addition to the flight sim titles of those earlier years, Dynamix published some adventure (Heart of China and Rise of the Dragon), family titles (The Incredible Machine, 3-D Ultra Pinball, Johnny Castaway), and the Front Page Sports (Football, Baseball and Trophy Bass). Today Dynamix continues to develop products for three of Sierra's family of brands: Sierra Attractions (3-D Ultra line), Sierra Sports (outdoor sports), and Dynamix, a Sierra Company (flight simulations and action games).

Bright Star Technologies entered the Sierra family in 1992. Founded by Elon Gasper, inventor of HyperAnimation and the principal author of Alphabet Blocks, Bright Star is a key player in multimedia technology. In addition to the well-known Talking Tutors series, Bright Star has developed multimedia language programs such as Berlitz Live! Spanish and Berlitz Live! Japanese. Bright Star continues making educational programs for Knowledge Adventure, part of the Cendant Software family.

Sierra's 1993 acquisition of Coktel Vision, a Paris-based developer and publisher of education and entertainment software, added titles such as Goblins and the Inca series to the Sierra family of products. Coktel continues to help Sierra expand its international development and distribution capabilities.

1995 saw a number of acquisitions, primarily in the home productivity genre. In May, Sierra purchased the rights to Print Artist, a program that enables users to quickly and easily create and print their own professional-quality documents. The acquisition of Green Thumb Software contributed home gardening and landscape products to the company's growing home productivity line. Arion software, publisher of the acclaimed MasterCook culinary series, was folded into the Sierra family in September. And finally, in November Sierra announced a joint venture with P.F. Collier to jointly develop and publish a multimedia general reference encyclopedia.

During 1995, Sierra purchased Impressions Software, a leading publisher of strategy games. Renowned for such products as Caesar II, Lords of the Realm, High Seas Trader, and The Blue and The Gray, Impressions significantly enhances Sierra's strategy offerings.

Sierra also purchased Papyrus Design Group and SubLogic in 1995. Papyrus, primarily known for its racing simulations, is the publisher of NASCAR Racing and Indy Car Racing. SubLogic develops flight simulation software within Dynamix, and is building upon the initial success of Pro Pilot.

Sierra's completed two acquisitions in April of 1997. The first was Berkeley Systems, publishers of the best-selling You Don't Know Jack series, the #1 selling After Dark screen saver series, and the popular Bezerk network. Almost simultaneously, Books That Work joined the Sierra family. The company develops software that guides users through the design, visualization and building processes of home-related projects, such as landscapes, gardens, decks, kitchens and entire houses. Its best-known titles include 3D Deck, 3D Kitchen, 3D Landscape, and Visual Home. Led by Vance Cook, Headgate was also purchased in 1997 and develops golf products for Sierra Sports.

Cendant Merger
In 1996, Sierra became part of CUC International, Inc., a technology-driven retail and membership services company that provides access to travel, shopping, auto, dining, home improvement, financial, and other services to over 70 million consumers worldwide. As the result of an even greater merger, Sierra is now a part of Cendant Software, one of the largest PC consumer software groups in the world and a leader in entertainment and educational software. Cendant Software consolidates the sales, manufacturing, finance, accounting and management of Cendant Corporation's software divisions, including Sierra, Knowledge Adventure, Davidson & Associates, Inc., and Blizzard Entertainment. Cendant Corporation is the result of the December 17, 1997 merger between CUC International and HFS Incorporated, creating the world's largest business and consumer services company (based on market capitalization), with focus on real estate, travel, and membership.

In late 2001 the company rebranded to Sierra Entertainment, seemingly bringing an ending to the Sierra On-Line chapter. However, in 2006 the name briefly returned as a label for Sierra Entertainment's online-only titles. This ended in 2008, along with Sierra Entertainment, following the merger of Vivendi and Activision.

Software Highlights from Credited Titles

Sierra On-Line's first work that SPOnG is aware of is the 1981 title, "Frogger" (C64).

The company has been involved titles released on the PC, Xbox 360, PS2, Power Mac, PlayStation, Amiga, ST, Mac, C64, Vic-20, Apple II, TI99, Atari 400/800/XL/XE and Colecovision. Of these, "Caesar 3" (PC), "Half-Life: Generation" (PC) and "Half-Life" (PC) have been best selling titles.

The company's most recent involvement was on the 2007 release "Space Quest Collection" (PC).

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