August 2, 2008 at 1:12 am #28678
It looks like Sierra may be up for grabs: http://www.edge-online.com/news/activision-set-sell-sierra
August 2, 2008 at 1:12 am #28679
It looks like Sierra may be up for grabs: http://www.edge-online.com/news/activision-set-sell-sierra
It would be nice to think that any new owner would do justice to the names and to the IP assets. (Hey Ken, here’s your chance again.)
August 2, 2008 at 12:58 pm #28680
THAT’S SOOO AWESOME! And I TOTALY agree that Ken should start it up again– either Ken or Al Lowe… that would be sooo awesome!
August 3, 2008 at 2:08 pm #28681
Wishful thinking, but yes I agree. It MAY end up in capable hands. We can only hope.
August 3, 2008 at 3:21 pm #28682
Or, come to think of it, no one will buy it and it will be scrapped… Everything from Leisure Suit Larry to King’s Quest… simply discarded…
August 4, 2008 at 12:23 am #28683
If no one buys it, wouldn’t the intrinsic market value be $0? And thus, open to anyone that is willing to take on the corporate name/assets?
If so, I do believe that there are still people that Sierra and it’s traditional (as well as some of the newer) assets are worth something. I, for one do… and would be willing to put some funding to purchase (and manage it), along with any investors/lenders that would be willing to provide the additional funding needed to acquire it. However, the best case scenario is having Ken purchasing it back, it’s the best way the company would get back the original heart… kinda reminds you of Jobs coming back… that said… if Activision does not find many buyers, put my name in the hat. I’d love to own a piece, and manage, a great brand name such as Sierra.
I have been (and still am) a fan of Sierra games from the past, and always wanted to be a part of that classic innovative entertainment company.
P.S. My wife and I just finished King’s Quest IV last week. I played it again after at least 15 years… still as entertaining as ever.
August 4, 2008 at 6:33 pm #28684
You do understand I was not trying to say it was WORTHLESS, don’t you? I’m in the same boat as you (even though I’m a new fan, not a long-time one such as yourself) and would love to own a bit of Sierra. But recently I emailed Al Lowe, and he shone some light on it’s (Sierra’s) situation that us fans are trying to ignore. Sierra will never be what it was– it will never be mainstream again if the markets remain the way they are. The majority of the gamers today have no desire to use (note that I did not say ‘waste’) hours and hours playing an adventure game. Shooting, sports and other types of games are more exciting, quicker, and not to mention more social (something most old Sierra adventure games cannot be, sadly)– and, from what I’ve seen recently, those types of games (shooting, sports etc.) are NOT Sierra’s area. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the computer gaming industry is on the way out– who want’s to get fat in front of their PC when they can go use the Wii? I believe Al is right. Though I do support Ken rebuying Sierra 100% because my personal interests, what would he do with it? What he was doing with it back ’96: making best-selling adventure games? In the markets I’ve been talking about, fat chance. And (Ken if you’re reading this, don’t take any offense) don’t forget Ken hasn’t really been in the computer/gaming industry for over a decade. Things have changed dramaticly in the past 10 years– faster than ever– and Ken didn’t catch that train. Though the things Sierra could create under his direction would no doubt entertain and delight ME greatly, THE REST OF THE WORLD requires (isn’t pathetic?) that it all be state-of-the-art– somthing I’m not sure Ken would be capable of. I’d like to imagine otherwise (Ken, you’re great in our eyes), believe me. I’m sorry Ken– I’m sorry everyone, but that’s how it is. Until someone can find a way to get the public interested in adventure gaming again, what is Sierra really worth to anyone other than us? Really?
P.S. Ken, I hope this doesn’t scare you away from the chance… I’m so sorry…
August 4, 2008 at 8:01 pm #28685
In 1996, Ken wasn’t just making adventure games; actually adventure games represented 5% of sales by the time Ken left (or so he said a few years back). Sierra was branching out–See games like Half Life, Hunter Hunted, Hellfire, Cesar , Mask of Eternity, Nascar, etc. By 1996, Sierra (which at the time was the market share leader of PC gaming) was MUCH more than just an adventure game company. Only two out of twelve studios by late 1997 were developing adventure titles (Bellevue and Oakhurst). You had products like Civil War Generals, Print Artist, Hallmark Cards, the Sierra Educational Game Series, Nascar Racing, Half Life, Cybergladiators, Cesar II, Driver’s Ed, CookMaster, Submarine, etc. Adventure games were in the minority of titles being produced by Sierra by the time Ken left. Now, ten years later, you have a lot of lucrative licenses plus all of those old Action, Action/Adventure, and RPG titles.
Sierra was branching out into action, MMORPGs, RPGs, simulations, sports, racing and home productivity. I remember Ken saying that if he came back the focus would be on MMMORPGs, which are HUGE nowadays.
While Home Productivity isn’t lucrative today, all of those other catagories are, and Sierra has at least a hundred different franchises to choose from, many of them not adventures. Could adventures be part of a newly Ken Williams run Sierra, if he chose to bring it back? Sure. But the main focus would be the catagories. There’s still a place for Sierra; there just needs to be someone who understands what Sierra is supposed to be and what Sierra’s business model should be. Vivendi, a water company, didn’t understand that.
People aren’t playing PC games? Tell that to the 9 million+ players of World of Warcraft.
August 5, 2008 at 12:42 am #28686
This isn’t specifically on this subject (or at least the direction this subject is going) but I thought I might throw this out there. I think the computer game industry is due for a radical readjustment, much like what has happened to the recording industry. The idea of “Sierra” was largely formed in a different time when the industry was radically different than it is today. In today’s gaming world the only games that get a “green light” are those that fit a very narrow decision gating process: the genre has to be profitable enough to justify the “R&D” costs (in gaming, the engine development and programming) and with the current demand for cutting edge everything that usually hits a number in the multi-millions. Companies, specifically public corporations, can be very constraining as they are usually led by businessmen who may or may not have any direct experience with the product being developed. Some of you may remember that the head of Cendant was on the Sierra Board of Directors prior to the 96 merger? The CEO of a travel company serving as a board member on a computer game company? He didn’t know games but he did know business and Ken Williams was around to guide the game development. Guys like that rely on basic business skills, taught in MBA programs all over the country and the more profitable a company is the more of a demand from the owners (stockholders) that the company is led by someone who can maximize the return on their investment. The point of all of this? The gaming industry has fallen into the same self destructive loop that the motion picture and recording industries have fallen into – flash over substance, safe over risky, lots and lots of PR and marketing and a reduction in any “unneccesary” costs to maximize stockholder returns. This approach works wonders in a lot of industries (mine included) but I’ve often wondered what bonehead thought it was a good approach to any creative endeavor.
At this point I’ve started to see the games on the shelf at Best Buy as the digital equivalent of the latest Britney Spears or Madonna album – the formula has been time tested and honed to maximum revenue generation potential, the PR has been insane and countless hours have been poured into focus group testing and trend analysis to make sure that the 30 million used in development won’t go into the next Diakatana or Battlecruiser 3000AD. Cross platforming is required as the big budgets require the maximum revenue from every platform to hit the “magic” numbers so the game is crippled to the slowest or least limiting system on the market. In short, mainstream games are the product of a Least Common Demoninator development process that ends up with the single least risky but highest selling package of manufactured “same” that we’ve all seen a hundred times before.
At this point I’d bet almost any of you over the age of 25 or so have a collection of CDs that you can’t find at Best Buy and won’t find on Top 40 radio. Personally mine is alternative country music from Texas. A friend of mine listens to post-modern emo rock mixed with punk. There are hundreds of musical genres that have sprung up over the last ten years since digital distribution and direct to customer selling became a reality in the wake of the Internet – almost none of which can be found in any traditional distribution form. I think music was the first art form to go this route, mostly because the relative difficulty of getting a CD recorded and “available” is pretty low compared to the other creative endeavors. Indy movies are all the rage these days and their distribution is slowly becoming more and more prevalent as the Internet and a million cable channels make it possible. I think at some point in the future games (and specifically computer games) will go this route. The idea of “making it” by getting on a major publishing label will fade away – just as it has in the recording industry. The gatekeepers on gaming will slowly find themselves less and less inflential as more people turn away from the brick and mortar approach and toward getting more variety at a lower fixed cost from alternative distributions.
All of this is my way of saying that seeing the “Sierra” name fade away really isn’t bothering me too much. Just like it didn’t mean anything when Ken Williams was driving his zip locked baggies around California in the early 80s the name of whatever computer game company is going to break the next real barrier in gaming means nothing now. Rather than hope that something pretty unlikely will happen (like Sierra getting picked up by a benovelent publisher in an industry full of Earnings Per Share slaves) I’ve started looking elsewhere for my gaming. The more people that leave the plastic boxes sitting on the shelves in Best Buy and start tossing their cash toward hard working, innovative, non-established game developers the sooner we may all see something close to what Sierra used to be – and I think that’s a good thing.
I’ll shut up now.
August 5, 2008 at 12:50 am #28687
One extra comment on this…..
Rather than focus on mega hits, I tried to focus on “niches”. My theory was that different people were “into” different things, and that money could be made by providing products with fairly small audiences. The trick was in sizing the potential market, and conforming spending to the revenue opportunity.
To put that in english: I believe the market consisted of different categories; for instance, flight simulators, action games, card games, FRPs, strategy games, adventure games, etc. It also broke into categories by subject: fantasy, comedy, thriller, reality, horror, etc. One of the things I used to always say was the software store of the future would have more categories than the book shelves at Barnes and Noble. My goal was to imagine that future book store, size the revenue opportunity from each shelf, and then in the top 100 categories find someone who was highly passionate about the category, and build the product (with a budget that made sense).
A typical Ken approach to things: When Vincent Bugliosi was writing non-fiction legal books (such as his book on Charles Manson), I saw that he was moving a lot of books. There were people who were interested in the true-crime category. So, I hunted him down and talked him into doing a game. The game never got made, but it shows the kind of product development approach I liked to take. Identify things in the non-computer business which people obviously care about, and then find a way to adapt it to computers.
In short, Sierra’s product strategy was based on studying consumers to see what they wanted to do, thinking about if there was something fun that could be done on a computer, and then sizing the opportunity, figuning out an R&D budget that made sense, and writing software.
August 5, 2008 at 2:26 am #28688
That makes perfect sense too. I think only a smaller company could have that sort of mindset though. I think most people want to see Sierra turned back into a smaller company and see the classic franchises get revived, but I don’t know how realistic that would be. I think there’s definitely a market for that sort of thing though. Personally, I’d like to see all of the old classic Sierra games made freeware and then have new sequels to the major franchises and maybe some high quality remakes, like King’s Quest VI using 3D technology but still keeping the same art style and gameplay. I think there’s a huge amount of potential there for all of the Quest games.
August 5, 2008 at 9:31 am #28689
Sounds like good basic business fundamentals… build products/services people want and can be monetized…. something we forget in this heyday world of Internet “Time to market”.
August 6, 2008 at 12:06 pm #28690
So, Ken, are you going to take it over again?
August 6, 2008 at 9:11 pm #28691
I’ve read the posts of the last week or so and took some time to reflect on them. The world of gaming continues to evolve. I read an article in EGM that discussed the number of games for 2008 is the same as the last few years, but the number of big budget games is down. Some of these games now have movie-sized budgets, and if they flop there’s no recuperating losses from the DVD release. I’ve been watching a lot of G4 lately. Nintendo caught a lot of flack on the network for what was considered a weak showing at E3. However, the G4 audience consists of the relatively hardcore gamer. Instead, Nintendo chose to cater to the casual gamer. The casual gamer, family-based gaming, is a cashcow right now. And Nintendo is making a good financial decision.
I picked up a Nintendo Wii last month and have had more fun with the games for it than I’ve had in 10+ years. For me, the new interactivity of the Wii is as cool and exciting as the interactivity of King’s Quest in the 80s. The first person shooters and roleplaying games of the past decade have not elicited this reaction for me, although I did try many times to get into them. I guess this brings me back to the idea that games continue to evolve, and I like the way they are going right now. Back to the basic FUNdementals. Is the gaming community ready for a King’s Quest revival if Activision sells the franchise and somebody chooses to run with it? I really don’t know. But the gaming industry is more family oriented now than it ever has been. And KQ particulary has always been a very family oriented series (the old KQ5 cover comes to mind when I write this). So, the waters may be right! And if nothing happens at least we will have fan games like The Silver Lining without Vivendi pitching a fit about the development.
Take care folks,
August 15, 2008 at 9:59 am #28692
how much do you think, will cost to buy the rights for one title?
August 18, 2008 at 5:38 pm #28693
It really depends on the title. If you want the rights to something like the King’s Quest or Leisure Suit Larry series, you’re looking at a lot of money for the obvious reasons, whereas if you wanted the rights to something like the Manhunter series, the prices would be considerably lower for same reasons. What series do you want the rights to (if I’m even on the right page mentioning adventure games)?
August 25, 2008 at 3:14 pm #28694
August 25, 2008 at 6:18 pm #28695
Well, firstly you’re definitely going for Sierra’s classic tenderloin, which is most definitely going to be pricey if Activision even decides to sell the rights. Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, Gabriel Knight, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist and Torin’s Passage– buddy, you may as well buy Sierra with that ambition. I’m no genius when it comes to the price this sort of thing, but, unless Activision could care less about the titles you mentioned (which may or may not be possible), I figure you’re looking at, or over 50K (more for Larry and King’s Quest, I’m sure) for each series and probably 2-5K for each individual. Even if those numbers are a small or great exaggeration, for games that had installments with budgets over 1-2 million USD as well as worldwide popularity, nothing’s going to be cheap either way. But, if you don’t mind me asking, what ARE you going to do with them? Hang their rights on you wall and say, “That was my favorite sieries when I was young”, or are you in the software industry yourself and have great ambitions to recreate these classics? Whatever the reason, really concider if you are the distined owner of these games.
August 26, 2008 at 11:35 am #28696
I’ve had one or two emails from people wanting to stir up a fan-based buyout of the Sierra properties from Activision and while I generally won’t come right out and say so I don’t think many of them are really operating from a business perspective but instead from a avid fan viewpoint.
It’s total conjecture but based on what I know about business (MBA, working in a large corporation now) Activision isn’t going to want to break up the Sierra catalog and they aren’t going to be selling rights to titles for a couple of thousand bucks. If they do anything they will sell the entire Sierra brand, IP, etc to another business for many millions of dollars. Beyond this the deal will most likely be hammered out between lawyers, accountants and tons of corporate weenies who will figure out how much the entire slate of the deal is worth. If the overall bulk price offered for the Sierra property exceeds what Activision plans to get from it (and don’t forget there is most likely still a significant amount of money coming in from residual sales of the last few years worth of games, including World In Conflict which was Strategy Game of the Year a couple of years ago) they will sell it off. If they don’t they will maintain the value of the company (including the IP which, since they purchased instead of creating it can appear as an asset on their balance sheets according to GAAP) on their books and soak up what cash they can from continued sales and legal actions protecting the IP.
If there is a fan out there with several million bucks to spend I’d love to see all of that stuff end up in good hands that would develop it but I think getting too excited about the idea of “buying” the Sierra IP selectively like you would pick up items at Target is a bit unrealistic. Business does not work that way. If you don’t believe me give Activision a call (I would assume you would call the Customer Service line) and ask them what they want for the King’s Quest IP.
August 26, 2008 at 4:11 pm #28697
I sadly agree that probably activision sell the all brand and not parts of the catalog, but you never know
not alot of companies want to buy the rights for adventure games.
I also think that if activision do sell the rights for adventure games and I or another fan get the rights
it supposed to be for the right cause.
I know that if i had the rights i will try to connect the creator of the series in order to make new chapter in the
series, if by making it a game, book or etc’. because i think they have the first rights to the series.
the second thing is not interfere with the fan projects, they now have alot of troubles from sierra and
i thing that the only thing you need to do is to check that the final product is in the spirt of the series.
August 26, 2008 at 4:27 pm #28698
No doubt. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’d love to see all the property in the hands of someone who would use it and use it well. I am just very skeptical anyone other than a serious business with an ability to borrow significant amounts of money based on a concrete business plan and a likely Return on the Investment would be able to even talk to someone at Activision – much less “buy” anything.