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(Which games are now public domain?) Vincent:
Je vous ai compris sans problème, mais, comme vous m’avez suggéré…
So that all the non-french speakers can keep up, I’ll continue in english, and begin by explaining what we are talking about…
Sierra couldn’t have had worse luck post-acquisition. In 1996, Sierra was acquired by a company called CUC. About a year after the acquisition, CUC merged with another company called HFS to become Cendant. Shortly after that merger, it was discovered that CUC had been cooking its books for over five years, and had fabricated 500 million or so in profits. This wiped out much of the value of Cendant stock, and triggered both civil and criminal litigation which continues to this day. Many people who had worked with me for 10-20 years at Sierra were wiped out by this disaster. Roberta and I also lost a ton of money to this fraud, and sincerely hope that the culpable parties rot in jail for many decades to come.
After the crash, Cendant decided that the software business, which consisted of a consolidation of Sierra, Blizzard and Davidson, would be sold off to a french company called Havas. What had previously been called Cendant Software was renamed to Havas Interactive.
Havas was a subsidiary of a giant megacorporation called Vivendi. I was long gone by the time of the sale of Sierra to Vivendi, and never personally met anyone from Vivendi. I did receive a small amount of news though. My brother was still working for Sierra, in a senior marketing position. Also, Sierra’s corporate offices in Europe were located in Versailles, just outside of Paris. Much of Sierra’s revenues came from Europe (nearly half) and the management in our French office was very strong. Through my brother, and from my former collegues in France, I would hear from time to time about life under Vivendi.
Sometime after acquiring Sierra, Vivendi also acquired Universal Studios, and reconsolidated the games business into a new group called “Vivendi-Universal Games”, or, VU Games. My brother was able to sit in on some of the meetings with the french during this period of consolidation, some of which were attended by a gentleman named Jean-Marie Messier (aka J2M). At the time, he was world famous as the Bill Gates of France. People spoke of him as if he were one of the most important people in the world. And, indeed, at the time he was.
Alas, happy endings and Sierra don’t always seem to go hand-in-hand. Monsieur Messier had his own scandal brewing. I have since forgotten what the scandal was, but the bottom line was that Vivendi stock crashed, and Mr. Messier was tossed out. Vivendi has been a problem company ever since, selling off bits and pieces of itself, trying to pay down its debt. The software business has been on the block for at least a couple of years (something which has been sometimes admitted and sometimes denied). It has had declining revenues and lost money while they were trying to sell it – and, has not been sold. Who knows what its future will be?
My guess is that all of this uncertainty makes it tougher for those in the software business. It’s tough enough to ship great games, and even tougher when the world around you (corporately) is going through so many changes.
-Ken W