July 31, 2008 at 4:35 pm #25883Kris Graft with the games website Edge-Online here. Hope all is well. I’m doing a feature about Sierra in the wake of
Activision Blizzard’s announcement that it will likely sell the publisher (some
think it will be shut down).I’m wondering what your thoughts are on
that. Sierra has really only been “Sierra” in name for years now. Is it time to
lay the label to rest? What would you like to see happen to “Sierra”?I’m looking to publish this story late
tonight, so if it’s possible to get a comment asap, I’d be eternally grateful.
Well, maybe not eternally, but I’d definitely be happy for a few hours.Kris GraftSr. Contributing EditorEdge Online
July 31, 2008 at 10:23 pm #25884
Sorry .. but, I don’t think I can be of much help. I didn’t see the announcement, and really don’t know what Sierra even is these days.
I’m a huge supporter of businesses making smart decisions, and that usually means keeping expenses in line with revenues. It also means not splitting your marketing budget 50 different directions. Regardless of who owns Sierra, or what Sierra is, I know that its’ best chance for being around 100 years from now is to have management that is willing to make tough decisions and do what the market dictates.
I suppose I should be disappointed anytime I hear that Sierra is being shutdown, but it really doesn’t bother me. The company was horribly mismanaged for a long time, and it depresses me more every time I hear about a dumb decision being made, than it does when I hear that someone did the right thing, even when it includes killing off a brand or reducing staff size. Generally speaking, if you do dumb things long enough, the staff size will be zero, and if you do smart things long enough, the staff size will be huge.
So.. I guess all I can say is: I don’t know enough to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I hope it is a good thing.
August 1, 2008 at 12:25 am #25885
Thanks much for your insight. Take care.
August 1, 2008 at 1:09 am #25886
I don’t think everyone agrees that Sierra ”means nothing”. I know myself I don’t want the name to dissapear, nor the games behind it. I want my children to be able to hear the name Sierra and be filled with wonder, just as I once was, and to enjoy new King’s Quests and new Space Quests for years to come. I don’t want these games to dissapear for good.
To say to just kill off Sierra for good is a cold statement, almost as cold as the Vivendi people who tried to bury it. Sierra, the name, has a legacy, and that legacy now has the chance to be in the hands of new owners who might actually do it well. Look at Knowledge Adventure, which was another Vivendi studio. Vivendi sold it to a few private invesors who turned the company around and are still doing well. The same fate could await Sierra.
August 1, 2008 at 7:18 am #25887
I received several emails last night asking whether or not I would try to buy back some of the Sierra brand names; Leisure-Suit Larry, Kings Quest, Phantasmagoria, etc.
As I mentioned here, I did think about getting back into the business recently. I sent an email to the Activision CEO saying that I would be willing to put together a small team focused on doing small, but innovative products. Specifically, I was thinking to go one of two directions: massively multiplayer games or iPhone games. Actually, I should restate and say ‘Entertainment’ not ‘games’. I never liked the word ‘game’ because it limits creativity. Their CEO did respond to say that it sounded interesting and invited me down to Los Angeles to visit. I wrote back to try to establish if he was ‘just being polite’ or was genuinely interested in making something happen, and he hasn’t responded yet. I wouldn’t blame him for not responding, in that I’m not really willing to commit the 20 hours a day effort that it takes to build world-class product. I do think I could do something cool and new, but to really be a player in the business, you need to commit your life to it, and I’ve ‘been there, done that.’
This also applies to buying back the old brands. If I wanted back into the business, the smartest path to the top would be to start with the Sierra brand, and trademarks, that are already established. In particular, I like Kings Quest and Leisure-Suit Larry. Kings Quest targets an under-served niche in the market. Roberta’s vision for Kings Quest was to have a ‘Disney-Style’ product, or these days I guess you would say ‘Pixar-style’ product, that is fun for the entire family.
The problem is that I’m not serious about making money, or starting another large company. I can’t say that we have all the money we could want, but we have enough that we can do all the things we want to do. Like it or not, life is of finite length. There’s a time for youth, a time to work, and a time to be retired. We’ve done the first two of these phases and are enjoying the third. It’s someone elses turn.
I do believe that I could manage one small product, and do something that would be fun, and hopefully surprise people. But, the idea of me starting another big software company, or even taking on a huge games product — it just isn’t happening.
Roberta’s chances are even slimmer than mine. She has been working on a book for about three years, and is working full-time on the project. She still has at least a couple years to go, and isn’t taking on any other projects until the book is finished. [Note: She is writing a serious, and thoroughly researched, novel about the Irish Immigration.]
Hopefully the good news in all of this is that someone will buy the Sierra brand who is committed to do something great. It’s like all of our old characters; Larry, Rosella, Roger Wilco and friends, have been sitting on the bench for the last ten years, saying ‘Put me in coach!’ and no one has been listening. Maybe this means they’ll finally get back into the game.
August 1, 2008 at 7:57 am #25888
Here’s a small supplement to my message below:
I worked for years on trying to buy the film rights to Leisure-Suit Larry. I’ve always wanted to make a film, and think Larry would be perfect. Various regiemes at Sierra have said yes to selling me the rights, and then all have been swapped out before a deal could be done. I might make another effort to get these rights, although, currently, I’m focused on other projects.
Much of my time is being taken up these days by Talkspot (http://www.talkspot.com). It’s a service that provides ‘build your own websites’ for small businesses. We currently have over 30,000 sites built, and are adding a couple of hundred a week. It’s just something fun I’m doing with my son, but it does take time.
Also: Roberta and I are addicted to boating. We crossed the Atlantic a few years back, explored the Bahamas last year, and just finished running our boat 5,000 miles from Seattle to Costa Rica. Next summer we start a circumnavigation with a run to Alaska, the Bering Sea, Siberia and Japan. I’ve also published two boating books, that have sold extremely well amongst the dozens of other people who are into serious long-range cruising.
For retired people, we do keep busy…
August 1, 2008 at 11:23 am #25889
Thanks for spelling out your thoughts and intentions very clearly on all of this activity with the Sierra name and trademarks. Some part of me was holding out hope you were bored to tears, sick of the ocean and itching to dive back in but I totally understand your “this is retirement time” philosophy and think you are spot on. I think it’s cool you take the time to update your interested fans on what’s going on and I wish you and Roberta nothing but happiness in your well earned and well lived reward.