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#121139 - 05/19/02 01:09 PM The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
oldman Online   content
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 04/15/00
Posts: 3452
Loc: Lost in the Arizona Desert
Hi all,

There have been some posts in the past wondering what happened to Sierra On Line and why they stopped creating Adventure Games.

I, having been a long time fan of them, wrote to Al Lowe and asked him point blank what the story was and he sent me a response that I'd like to share with all that might be interested.

My Question:
Quote:
Hi Al Lowe,

I'm wondering if anyone will tell me the real deal behind Sierra. Did
Ken & Roberta Williams sell their company and take off in the wild blue
yonder or get forced out by a corporate takeover?
Al's Answer:
Quote:
The short story is: one morning Ken learned that a company named CUC was going to offer 50% more/share of Sierra
stock than its current market price. They bought the company out from under us. They said "we want to keep everything
just the same" so of course the first thing they did was change everything! They merged with another corp named HFS,
named the combined company Cendant, which then had big "accounting irregularities" and was the target of a huge
shareholder suit (search the Internet for that one; it's a real education!). Ken was shuffled off to "start up our Internet
shopping site." And did. But it was too late. They pissed him off, wouldn't listen, he quit to start an Internet Talk Radio site
called Worldstream, which has sinced folded too.

Then Cendant sold off all the game companies they had bought two years before for a huge loss (paid $4 billion; sold for
$1.5 billion) to Havas, a French conglomerate that makes, among other things, jet engines, water treatment plants, and
educational books. Havas has merged with Vivendi, which then acquired Seagrams and Universal Studios! [blip]! If I
had only hung on longer, we could have had a Leisure Suit Larry theme park ride!! <grin>

There was no big conspiracy, only greed and incompetence (well, if you don't count the other just plain stealing) toward
Sierra. No one there had any idea what they had bought, so they dumped it. Damned shame.
I for one think it's a shame that corporate piracy motivated by greed can force one of the founders of the Adventure Genre to lose their company and give up the creation that they worked so hard to build.

But, this is just one man's opinion.
_________________________
You laugh because I'm different
I laugh because you're all the same

Funny I don't remember being absent minded.

John

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#121140 - 05/19/02 01:46 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
gatorlaw Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/01/99
Posts: 10312
Oldman,

Interesting, sad - but unfortunately often repeated events in the gaming world.

Thanks for sharing Al's response to your mail. What a criminal waste of talent and great product. Oh well. I wonder if the alleged "new Sierra" is going to actually pursue the hinted at revival of many of the classic Sierra games. I suppose we'll see sooner or later.

Laura
_________________________




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#121141 - 05/19/02 02:30 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
Skinter Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 4161
Loc: Herndon, VA
When are we going to hear if Sierra is going to revive their Adventure Genre or not? I personally think that it wasn't fair what they did to Ken and Roberta Williams. They're the ones who started the whole company themselves. I just wish that somebody would bring back the old Sierra Adventure Games. frown frown
_________________________
Lvl 55 Hunter in WOW

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#121142 - 05/19/02 04:15 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
MVWINTER Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 12/19/01
Posts: 30
Loc: LONDON
I admire KEN and Roberta for starting the company and having the foresight to create and develop the adventure genera and for coming up with a lot of great adventure games . However , I MIGHT have misunderstood , but from what I know it seems like they DID have a choice to hold on to SIERRA ( and not sell it down the slippery slide of "the corporation') &#8211; EVEN if they were offered a lot of cash ( THEY DID NOT HAVE TO sell it ! they could have refused the tempting offer ! &#8211; others have refused being bought up &#8211; its difficult to do but its done , staying independent ) &#8211; NOW , AM I wrong in my presumption , that this was a choice THEY MADE ? , rather than SIERRA being taken over without their consent ?!? - regardless, its only a mute point , its too late now ( considering the masses AND MASSES of redundancies that accrued subsequently ) &#8211;a real LOSS - and as AL says a [blip] BIG SHAME !

Ps; SIERRA is single-handedly made me re-think my stance on corporations in general - as their pure focus on profit first , before product / before creativity / before people can be noted over and over again throughout all industries (when corporations "take over' smaller / independent companies , there seem to ALWAYS be "severe downsides' ) SAD BUT TRUE !

I WONDER how many more games SIERRA would have continued to bring to the world had KEN NOT chosen to sell the company, however well intentioned that act might have been . . . as far as I know MOST of what they put out was profitable &#8211; even if their dalliance with FULL MOTION VIDEO was expensive , the 3D resolution could have been the start of a new era in adventure games ;
MY GOD , we could have had LORA BOW 4 - GABRIEL KNIGHT 5 and countless other possibly NEW series ! IF ONLY ! frown frown

WHAT DO YOU THINK ( where would we have been now had sierra not been SWALLOWED up!?! )
<img border="0" title="" alt="[Confused]" src="confused.gif" /> frown

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#121143 - 05/19/02 06:00 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
Clovis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 03/12/00
Posts: 423
Loc: Greece
Hi MVWinter,

Sierra had started moving away from adventures before the change of hands, since a number of adventures that were in development, the most famous being "Cloak", were cancelled long before the sale of the company. Also , not developing a Quest for Glory 5, blaming the designers of the game for poor initial sales of the QFG4, rather than admiting the marketing mistake of shipping in diskette format (it sold very well once it came out in CD-ROM) was a huge letdown for the fans of the
series (the same mistake was made for Betrayal at Krondor, one of the best RPGs of it's time). So, they may have continued with some of the well-established series, but I don't think the prospect of new ones were that great even if Sierra had stayed on Williams' hands.

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#121144 - 05/19/02 09:59 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
Mad Offline
True Blue Boomer

Registered: 11/21/00
Posts: 23527
Loc: United Kingdom
Hi.

I thought I owned Quest For Glory V......"Dragon Fire" ?? <img border="0" title="" alt="[Confused]" src="confused.gif" />

And on the Sierra subject.....

When I bought Simon 3D and couldn't get it to run - but before Mr. Bill and Adventure Soft helped me out - I contacted the "official" UK Tech. Support people - and was astounded to see "Sierra" in the Site Address !! wave
_________________________
Time : The Most Precious Commodity

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#121145 - 05/19/02 11:05 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
Kenneth M. Hinds Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 02/13/02
Posts: 172
Loc: East Lansing, MI
1. Do any of you know for sure if Ken and Roberta were the sole owners at the time that CUC was making the offer? It sounds to me like they may have been public at the time, in which case the majority of the stockholders would have the say in what happened and not necessarily Ken and/or Roberta.

2. The story sounds a lot like the situation with Microprose, SSI, and Broederbund. They were doing great in their specializations until a plague-handed software company, which I'll not name, got a grip on them. After that title cancellations abounded, buyouts, money sucked off, followed by sell-offs and split ups. What really bothered me about the situation is I had been watching the company trash everything it touched and could see the situation with SSI and others coming. Why couldn't they have gone after something like Microsoft and left the good stuff alone I don't know, except Bill probably wasn't uninformed enough to let them near his baby.

Ken

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#121146 - 05/19/02 11:30 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
kat165 Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 08/23/00
Posts: 1737
Loc: Northern New Jersey, USA
So where are Ken and Roberta Williams now? Can't they start up another company? Did they lose interest in making games? What are they up to? I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd be interested in seeing what they could come up with next to continue and perhaps surpass what came before.

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#121147 - 05/20/02 08:18 AM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
bredon Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 09/21/01
Posts: 423
Loc: Boardman, Ohio 44512
Actually, I would hope that would NEVER pass, no matter how many years went by:

Having Windows audit my computer without my consent assumes that I , in fact, HAVE illegal software on my computer unless found otherwise.

That in turn, completly violates one of the basic principles this country is founded on: Innocent till proven guilty.

I don't care how much money the software companies lose, its not worth destroying one of the basic human rights we have.

R
_________________________
"I may dislike what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it."-Voltaire
"Tact is just saying stuff that's not true. I'll pass."-Cordelia Chase

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#121148 - 05/20/02 10:19 AM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
Kenneth M. Hinds Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 02/13/02
Posts: 172
Loc: East Lansing, MI
TSS, it is interesting that my facts are not in line when all I said was the companies were doing fine, at least to public appearances of those of us buying their products, until another software company got the hands on them. And yes, The Learning Company was the one I feel was plague-handed. Every company that I saw them touch, including Mindscape, started having problems and the quality of the products produced after acquisition by TLC suffered. As far as Mattel goes, their CEO got the hook or voluntarily left over the mess. Their management seemed to be amoung the uninformed or they would never have let TLC in the door. They did cut them loose once they realized what was happening which was smart, but a bit late.

Those things happen and Enron not withstanding the Corporate Management often pays a price when they do.

As for your other arguments, if a company "sells" their product on consignment or otherwise and doesn't make sure that they receive the proper payment it's not the consumers fault nor is it our responsibility make restitution for their lack of care and management skills. They should have either made sure that they got paid for what went out the door or got back all the unsold materials. If a retail chain resells the material to a organization like yours without paying the producer it's not my responsibilty to take care of the producer or make sure that the producer got paid for what I buy from you or someone like you. Nor does buying under those circumstances make me a thief.

Ken

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#121149 - 05/20/02 10:23 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
oldman Online   content
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 04/15/00
Posts: 3452
Loc: Lost in the Arizona Desert
Quote:
Originally posted by Clovis:
Hi MVWinter,

Sierra had started moving away from adventures before the change of hands, since a number of adventures that were in development, the most famous being "Cloak", were cancelled long before the sale of the company. Also , not developing a Quest for Glory 5, blaming the designers of the game for poor initial sales of the QFG4, rather than admiting the marketing mistake of shipping in diskette format (it sold very well once it came out in CD-ROM) was a huge letdown for the fans of the
series (the same mistake was made for Betrayal at Krondor, one of the best RPGs of it's time). So, they may have continued with some of the well-established series, but I don't think the prospect of new ones were that great even if Sierra had stayed on Williams' hands.
I may be wrong but I believe that Cendant had already purchased Sierra when both those games were published. Also the last KQ game by Roberta Williams was done while under the ownership of Cendant. From that time on, whatever the reason, adventure games at Sierra became a lost art and it's too bad that KQ 8 was Roberta Williams Swan Song because , in my humble opinion, it was her worst.

I purchased all three games and it already had the Cendant label on it.

As an added thought, the original company, Sierra On Line, had the best customer service of any game company and had a policy that if you were not pleased with your game you could return it for a full refund or exchange it for another game. All they asked was that you tell them why you didn't like their game.

I really miss that type of dedication to their art and customer service.
_________________________
You laugh because I'm different
I laugh because you're all the same

Funny I don't remember being absent minded.

John

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#121150 - 05/21/02 07:05 AM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
aberfoyle Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 02/16/02
Posts: 327
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
I don't remember the details, but in an interview, Roberta Williams mentioned that Ken was working on his (now failed) internet venture. It sounded like they had invested heavily from his profits in the sale of Sierra.

Sierra tried being an online gaming site by subscription early on too. I think Sierra was like Visi-Calc and Lotus 1-2-3. They were first, but for one reason and another, they were left behind by newer and brighter products competing in 'their' space.

I think that once Roberta was free to do other games beyond Kings Quest, she did some very fine work. It's tough to have to do game after game when you have 'said what you wanted to say' three games ago!

I hope at some point the Williams get back to their roots. If the Rolling Stones can go on forever, there is certainly a place for adventure game superstars like Ken and Roberta.

wave

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#121151 - 05/21/02 11:33 AM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
MVWINTER Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 12/19/01
Posts: 30
Loc: LONDON
Its such a shame &#8211; and you can see when the company changed &#8211; I remember talk of the increasing corporate culture at sierra ( many designers were unhappy with ) which moved them from a creative game producer &#8211; to a "modern corporation mentality' lots of managers that manage their "management techniques' ( but not much else ) - YOU can see for example the pressure Roberta was under when doing KQ8 ( under CENDANT ) they tried to make the most "SURE HIT' game that corporate culture through possible/ most effective &#8211; so OUT goes the adventure in comes the "action' ( cause that's what "young people seem to want'- and thats what seem to sell most )

It's the old conflict of "OLD SIERRA' making games because they believed in them and "NEW CORPORATE SIERRA' making games the deliver the bottom line ( adhere to whats considered most popular to ensure the biggest return ) &#8211; loosing what made the company special !

As far as profits &#8211; TSS made some very interesting points ( ones that I was totally unaware of !)- but it seems that companies that deal with resellers are those with too much unsold stock ( DID SIERRA deal with as many resellers as TLC ? ) did they NEED TO ? &#8211; or where they able to really sell their game stocks at their most valuable point &#8211; full price in big chain stores - before getting discounted /or on a budget label &#8211; which always smells of desperation , and points to a badly performing game ( sales wise ) &#8211; it always seemed that sierra had no problem selling and making a profit . But as TSS points out there is more behind the numbers that we might know .

I juts remember numbers quoted of 200000+ sales for most of their lines of adventures( that's what they publicized ) &#8211; now were these 200000+ units sold for 'low profit' / nothing ( 3-5 $ ) to resellers because of low interest from chain-stores or were they sold at their premium point to customers like me through stores nation wide &#8211; where we paid for a full priced item &#8211; in the UK it used to cost 39 pounds ( 50$ ) per SIERRA GAME &#8211; - now that was in 1992 -

Now, I DON'T KNOW which it was for SIERRA ?!? - ANYONE any idea ? <img border="0" title="" alt="[Confused]" src="confused.gif" />

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#121152 - 05/21/02 01:57 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
ray Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 05/29/99
Posts: 4553
Loc: Los Angeles
Unfortunately, none of this would have happened to Sierra except for one, inescapable fact: adventure games stopped selling. For a few years they were king of the hill; then the party ended when too much money was lost on expensive (please excuse me for using the hackneyed phrase) Myst-clones. As much as we loved games like Morpheus, Amber, Obsidian, Timelapse, Sanitarium, The Blackstone Chronicles, and all of those beautiful, expensive-to-produce games, none of them made any money, and virtually none of the studios (not to mention the actual publishers) are even alive today.

The game business has cycles. For real-time strategy lovers and lovers of The Sims, it's currently a beautiful world. Actually, things aren't too shabby for role-playing enthusiasts either.

But for now point-and-click adventure lovers just have to hang on tight to mediocre fare like The Cameron Files and lousy fare like Mystery of the Druids, all the while stifling wistful memories of the Mayan ruins of Timelapse, the gorgeous Nepalese vistas of Journeyman 3, the brilliant humor of Zork Grand Inquisitor, and the stunning storytelling of Sanitarium. Until things get better, we'll have to hope for stunners like The Longest Journey, Beyond Atlantis 2 and Myst 3: Exile to continue to appear once or twice every couple of years.

BTW, it's just possible that Jazz and Faust could be one of those stunners.
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Procrastinate NOW!! Don't put it off!!

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#121153 - 05/21/02 02:31 PM Re: The demise of Sierra on Line Adventure games
Jenny100 Offline
GB Reviewer Glitches Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 10/24/00
Posts: 35477
Loc: southeast USA
Quote:
Originally posted by ray:
Unfortunately, none of this would have happened to Sierra except for one, inescapable fact: adventure games stopped selling...
When exactly was that? I think it was before I started playing adventure games and collected over a hundred of them that they stopped selling. But most of my purchases are online so they don't count.

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