Sierra Entertainment was a computer game developer and publisher active from 1979 to 2008. The name survives as a brand of Vivendi Universal and last owned by Activision Blizzard. The Sierra label would not continue, Sierra's website was redirected to Activision's website.
Sierra started modestly as On-Line Systems in 1979, with founders Ken and Roberta Williams programming games and managing the company from their own home. Their first game was Mystery House, the world's first graphic adventure game.
In 1984, Sierra developed King's Quest, initially published by IBM, to show off the advanced technology of the IBM PCjr. The success of that game (subsequently ported to other platforms) set forth one of the most popular series Sierra has ever created, and spurred them into creating numerous adventure game series based on the Quest theme. In the years to come Sierra would remain on the forefront of groundbreaking computer game design, sometimes creating large blockbusters and other times, failed experiments.
Starting in 1990, Sierra began acquiring other companies, including Dynamix (1990), Bright Star Technologies (1992), Coktel Vision (1993) and Impressions Games (1995). Further acquisitions included Green Thumb Software (1995), Arion Software (1995), Papyrus Design Group (1995), Berkeley Systems (1997), Books That Work (1997), PyroTechnix (1997) and Headgate (1997). Sierra also acquired the rights to use Print Artist, a computer publishing program which allowed users to make high quality picture prints, in 1995.
In 1991 Sierra started an online service called The Sierra Network. Pre-WWW, it was comparable to services like CompuServe or Prodigy except that its interface was completely graphical. Thematically, it was a cross between a kingdom and a theme park in which users could visit different "lands" to post on message boards, exchange emails and play games. It was renamed ImagiNation Network and sold in 1994 to AT&T, who sold it to AOL in 1996.
In July 1996, the company was sold to CUC International; Ken Williams left Sierra one year later. In December 1997, CUC merged with HFS Incorporated to form Cendant Software. Following Cendant's disclosure of accounting "irregularities" (which exceeded 300 million) in April 1998, Sierra was sold again to French publisher Havas, who in turn were acquired by French giant Vivendi.
In 1998, the company was reoganized into five distinct groups:
- Sierra Attractions—this division would develope such series as "Hoyle", "You Don't Know Jack" and others.
- Sierra Home—This division would publish consumer friendly home improvement programs such as "Print Artist", "Hallmark Card Studios", "MasterCook series", etc.
- Sierra Sports—This division would function to publish sports entertainment series developed by Papyrus Design Group and other studios.
- Sierra Studios—This division developed the "big" games such as "King's Quest" and also would be used to publish Sierra's games. The division's main offices were in Bellevue and development groups at Impressions Software and PyroTechnix. It would also be the publisher of independent developers.
- Dynamix, a Sierra Company—The same company which was purchased in 1990 specialized in developing 3D combat simulation games such as "Red Baron", "Starsiege" and "Pro Pilot", flight simulator game series.
On February 22, 1999, a decision within Sierra resulted in the shutdown of many Sierra developement studios, the most shocking of those shutdowns was the closing of Yosemite Entertainment. This day would later come to be known by Sierra fans as "Black Monday." The shutdown came with an announcement by Sierra of a majory reorganization of the company.Other developement groups within Sierra such as PyroTechnix, Books That Work Inc. and Synergistic were shutdown that fateful day. About 135 people were laid off because of these changes.
Another reorganization within the company came in 1999 with Sierra again changing to the divisions within the company, this time to "Core Games" (Sierra Studios); Sierra Sports (Sierra Attractions)and Casual Entertainment (Sierra Home). 105 more employees were laid off because of these changes. Around this time, Sierra changed it's company status from being a major developer of computer games to being a major publisher of games ([for independent companies]).
The company was renamed Sierra Entertainment in 2002.
In June 2004, Vivendi reorganized the Vivendi Universal games group, distributing Sierra's work to other units and finally shutting down Sierra's Bellevue location in August. The Sierra brand lives on in name only.
An independent group known as AGD Interactive have also remade and updated several of Sierra's classic Adventure Games from the 80's and 90's.
Companies under the Sierra umbrella
Fully-owned subsidiaries of Sierra
Companies for which Sierra publishes
- Mystery House (1980, produced in 1979, re-released by SierraVenture in 1982)
- Mission Asteroid (1980, re-released by SierraVenture, 1982)
- The Wizard and the Princess / Adventure in Serenia (1980, re-released by SierraVenture in 1982)
- Cranston Manor (1981)
- Ulysses and the Golden Fleece (1981, re-released by SierraVenture in 1982)
- Time Zone (1982, produced in 1981, re-released by SierraVenture in 1982)
- The Dark Crystal (1982)
- Gelfling Adventure (1984)
- Mickey's Space Adventure (1984)
- The Black Cauldron (1984, re-released in 1986)
- Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood (1986)
- Dragon's Keep (1983)
- Troll's Tale (1983)
- Gold Rush! (1988)
- Codename: Iceman (1989)
- The Adventures of Willy Beamish (1991)
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist (1993)
- Betrayal at Krondor (1993)
- Slater & Charlie Go Camping (1993)
- Urban Runner (1995)
- Torin's Passage (1995)
- Rama (1996)
- Lighthouse: The Dark Being (1996)
- Betrayal in Antara (1997)
- King's Quest series
- King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1984, produced in 1983, re-released in 1987, improved version 1989)
- King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne (1985)
- King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human (1986)
- King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (1988)
- King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (1990, CD-ROM version 1991)
- King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (1992, CD-ROM version 1993)
- King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (1994)
- King's Quest VIII: The Mask of Eternity (1998)
- Space Quest series
- Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter (1986, improved version 1990)
- Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge (1987)
- Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (1989)
- Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991)
- Space Quest V: Roger Wilco in the Next Mutation (1993)
- Space Quest VI: The Spinal Frontier (1995)
- Leisure Suit Larry series
- Softporn Adventure (1981, precursor to Leisure Suit Larry)
- Leisure Suit Larry In the Land of the Lounge Lizards / Leisure Suit Larry 1 (1987, improved version in 1991)
- Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places) / Leisure Suit Larry 2 (1988)
- Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals (1989)
- Leisure Suit Larry 4 (unwritten, unreleased - number skipped as a gag)
- Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (1991)
- Laffer Utilities (1992)
- Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! (1993)
- Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail (1995)
- Leisure Suit Larry's Casino (1998)
- Leisure Suit Larry 8: Lust in Space (unreleased)
- Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (2004), not by Al Lowe
- Police Quest series
- Manhunter series
- Laura Bow series
- Conquests series
- Quest for Glory series (formerly Hero's Quest)
- EcoQuest series
- Gabriel Knight series
- Phantasmagoria series
- Shivers series
Other notable games
- Sierra Championship Boxing
- Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress
- Sid & Al's Incredible Toons
- No One Lives Forever (series)
- Red Baron
- Aces of the Pacific
- SWAT (series)
- NASCAR Racing
- Tribes: Aerial Assault
- Metal Arms: Glitch in the System
- Jones in the Fast Lane (1991)
- Quarky & Quaysoo's Turbo Science (1992)
- Half-Life and Half-Life 2
- Dr. Brain series
- The Incredible Machine series
- City Building Series
- Outpost series
- Hoyle's series
- [[Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 1 (1989)
- [[Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 2 (1990)
- [[Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 3 (1991)
- Hoyle Casino
- Hoyle Board Games
- Hoyle Card Games
- Hoyle Kids Games
- Hoyle Puzzle Games
- Hoyle Table Games
- Hoyle Solitaire (1996)
- Hoyle Majestic Chess (2003)
- Hoyle Backgammon and Cribbage (1999)
- Hoyle Casino Empire (2002)
- Data sourced from Sierra Entertainment on Wikipedia