July 24th, 1996. A day some of you may know the significance of, and a day of unsurpassed importance in the history of Sierra. On that day, Sierra’s shareholders and other officials met and the decision to sell Sierra On-Line, Inc., to CUC International, Inc., was finalized and agreed upon. 12 years ago today, Sierra was sold, at the peak of it’s game, to CUC, for over $1 billion in stock money. This day marked the turning point in the company’s long and storied history. That same day, the shareholders of Davidson & Associates, Inc. (the owners of Blizzard Entertainment) also met and finalized the sale of their company to CUC as well.
By July of the next year, CUC would own Sierra, Davidson, Blizzard, Knowledge Adventure and Gryphon Software.
Where would all these companies end up?
CUC merged with HFS Inc, a leading franchiser of Hotels, in December ’97 and formed Cendant Corp., and for a few months existed as one of the largest and most powerful companies on the planet, but ended up being involved in one of the biggest accounting scandals in history. Many of CUC’s leaders were jailed and Cendant survived but in a much weakened state, it’s name forever tarnished. The company would splinter itself into different parts and spin off those parts and the Cendant name would go out of business nearly ten years later.
Sierra in the first year and a half after the sale was extremely successful and acquired 3 different companies in that year and a half and continued to grow but when the Cendant scandal rocked the company, and it was discovered that CUC’s accountants used Sierra’s name to cover a lot of it’s illegal dealings. This nearly shattered the profitability of the company and resulted in many good people losing their jobs and pensions. It later suffered numerous layoffs and was sold again, to Havas, who was in turn sold to Vivendi shortly thereafter. Sierra was under much stricter and colder management following the scandal and many layoffs and dissapointing game titles ensued and Sierra’s studios were all systemically closed over a period of 6 years. With the closure of the Bellevue offices in 2004 by Vivendi, the company now exists only as a brand name on Vivendi products and is considered a minor company by Vivendi but the name and it’s legacy survive and haven’t been forgotten, and as it is used on Vivendi products, it is still well known, albeit not the same as it once was.
Davidson & Associates, Inc., was divested and digested by CUC after it’s founders left in early 1997 and it’s products and brands were transfered to Knowledge Adventure, who distributed and released them as if they were their own products. The Davidson website became Knowledge Adventure, and was absorbed totally. It exists now only as the seldom used and mentioned legal name of Blizzard Entertainment and has largely been forgotten by today’s gamers, almost as if it were erased from history.. Like Sierra, Davidson’s name was also used by CUC for it’s illegal dealings, which resulted in a lot of good people losing their jobs.
Knowledge Adventure managed to generally escape the ill effects of the Cendant scandal, having been purchased later and it’s name wasn’t used for any of CUC’s dirty work unlike Sierra and Davidson. Probably to it’s benefit, Knowledge Adventure was sold by Vivendi in 2004 to a group of investers who took an interest in restoring the company and who wanted to take a much more active role in it’s management. It is doing fine now, and it’s products are still widely available, and is probably the leader in the (now very small and much less profitable than it once was) field of educational software.
Blizzard Entertainment was separated from Davidson shortly after the CUC sale and became a separate brand. It too suffered for a while because of the Cendant scandal, and from 1998 through 2003, numerous key employees left the company because of what they deemed was a lack of creative control. Like Sierra, it was sold to Havas in 1998 and is a subsidiary of Vivendi. However, Blizzard recovered. It shutdown and integrated the members of it’s famous Blizzard North studio into it’s main headquarters, and unlike Sierra, Vivendi gives the company total creative freedom. Blizzard’s management is still the same as it was in 1996, and Blizzard is now one of the leading PC game developers with nearly 3000 employees around the globe.
Gryphon Software was a small developer of educational and children’s software, and after being bought by CUC in early 1997 was quickly and quietly digested by Davidson & Associates, and like Davidson, it disappeared off the map shortly after. As Davidson & Associates doesn’t exist anymore, whatever Gryphon did is unknown and where it’s employees went, is unknown as well.