Reply To: Game Arts, The Logo, and Other Random Goodness

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“… (by T.J. Griesenbrock) Hey Ken —

I am currently a developer working as a consultant, inspired into this field thanks to Sierra games in the past. One of my favorite game (which happens to be the first game I actually purchased with my own cash, instead of being gifted) is Thexder. In fact, my old online alias (Zelpheri) was based on the name of one of your imported games, Zeliard. To this day, my laptop have the main logo screen as its wallpaper.

I am curious on the history behind developing a relationship with Game Arts (and one other Japanese game company which made Sorcerian – I have a feeling Game Arts only had the license for it) – what started this move? Why did the relationship end?

Also, who came up with the design for the Sierra logo? What was the best implementation of that logo in a game? (For example, Space Quest 3 had the sweeping in the logo animation on EGA/VGA machines.) While growing up, I have always envision an actual picture of the mountain itself, sequing into the logo, a la Paramount.

You know, have you ever envisioned that Broderbund would be around longer than Sierra as a business? I remember an old article where the staff of Sierra and Broderbund would go white-water rafting, and pondificate on merging forces. Sierra Print Shop… Where in Sierra is Carmen Sandiego? Mind-boggling.

Thank you for being a major part of my childhood. I still remember fondly at being 14 and trying to pass that Leisure Suit Larry’s Adult test….”

Good questions…

I don’t remember how the Japanese connection occurred. We had a consultant we hired (Ed Nagano I think was his name) from Japan. I wanted to sell our games in Japan, and try to find Japanese games to sell in the US. Ed took me around to meet the various Japanese developers, and started Sierra Japan.

The effort had mixed success. We never licensed in any games that were megahits, and our games never really did big numbers in Japan. We didn’t lose any money, but it wasn’t the bonanza I thought it would be.

As to Sierra’s logo – that is a LONG story. I always had a set of basic rules that I lived by. Sometimes these were referred to as “Ken’s Laws.” They weren’t written down, and even tended to change from month to month — but, a very consistent law of mine was that as much money as possible should be focused on building great product. I didn’t like spending money on fancy buildings. We were not a big advertiser. We hardly did trade shows. We were big on direct marketing — but, that fit another of my laws about selling to customers who were “in the family.”

I always considered logos as somewhat silly. Every time we hired someone new in marketing, they started the battle for a new logo, new stationary, new business cards, etc. I always compared it to dogs marking their turf. This made me very unpopular with the marketing department, and popular with customers. Money spent on product was ok. Money spent on logos wasn’t.

Every few years, I would concede this point, and our logo would shift shapes or colors. I would have $300,000 less for product development, but marketing would be happy (for a few days). Generally, customers didn’t care.

As to Broderbund: I miss those days!!! As to which company lasted longer, I don’t know the answer. Are their still Broderbund employees? I haven’t checked for over a decade.

-Ken W