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(Which games are now public domain?) I have no idea which old Sierra games can be posted for download. My guess is that none of them have been made officially “public domain” — but, that it is very unlikely that anyone from Sierra would ever prosecute someone who was making the “really” old games available for download. That said, Roberta and I gave up all rights to all our old games when we sold Sierra. We can’t authorize anyone to do anything with respect to anything Sierra.
Here’s an interesting rumor for you…
On Friday morning, I (Ken Williams) received an email from Al Lowe which was some sort of press article talking about horrible financial results at VU (Vivendi Universal) Games. VU is the company that currently owns Sierra.
It has been frustrating to watch a company that Roberta and I built, over a nearly 20 year period, struggle. After reading the news clipping, I called the secretary of the current CEO to request his email address. Assuming I can get her to pass along my request, and I get a response, my plan is to ask how I can help.
I really don’t know what sort of help I was offering, or what help I could be. There is no scenario in which I would ever go back to running a software company. Eight years of retirement has spoiled me. I can’t imagine a life of riding around on airplanes and wearing a tie. Been there, done that. There are some good things, like getting to hang out with amazingly creative and talented people — but, like I said — been there, done that.
I am convinced that if Sierra, or VU Games, really wanted, that we could find a way that I could make some contribution – without having to be a “real” employee. I wouldn’t do anything for the money. It just feels wrong to see something I care so much about in trouble, and not offer to help.
All that said, we’ll see if they ever call…. I’ll be surprised if they do, but hopefully they will.
-Ken W

Full year revenues drop sharply for Vivendi Games Rob Fahey 12:33 06/02/2004

Uncertainty over future of games division blamed for poor results Media conglomerate Vivendi Universal has announced its revenue figures for the fourth quarter and full year of 2003, revealing that the company’s videogames division suffered a 28 per cent drop in revenues during the year.
Full year revenues at the division were €571 million, while the fourth quarter – traditionally the most important of the year for games companies – saw revenues of €254 million, down 13 per cent from the same period in 2002.
The company had expected better sales during the holiday season, and its results certainly took a hit from the failure of Half-Life 2 to materialise during 2003, but overall it was simply a bad year for VU Games – with a fairly weak line-up of products, and constant speculation over the future of the division taking its toll.
Even now, it’s not entirely clear what Vivendi plans to do with its game publishing business. The firm has abandoned plans to float it, and efforts at selling the division fell through some time ago – but with the sale of the majority of the company’s other media assets to General Electric last year, VU Games doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the company’s portfolio any more.
Declining revenues and the ongoing exodus of key staff from star development studio Blizzard certainly won’t help the company to secure a good price should it decide to put VU Games on the market again – but in the absence of a visible, solid future direction for the division, it’s hard to see Vivendi holding on to it in the long term.