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Sierra Entertainment

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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 1982 the company changed its name to Sierra On-Line and moved to Oakhurst, California.

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 1994, Sierra moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington to attract more talent.

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:

  1. Sierra Attractions—this division would develope such series as "Hoyle", "You Don't Know Jack" and others.
  2. Sierra Home—This division would publish consumer friendly home improvement programs such as "Print Artist", "Hallmark Card Studios", "MasterCook series", etc.
  3. Sierra Sports—This division would function to publish sports entertainment series developed by Papyrus Design Group and other studios.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Sierra's location in Oakhurst was renamed Yosemite Entertainment in 1998.

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.

In 2008, Sierra appears to be absorbed into Activision due to bad viewership and Sierra's website was no longer accessible.

Companies under the Sierra umbrella

Fully-owned subsidiaries of Sierra

Companies for which Sierra publishes

Sierra's games

Adventure games

Other notable games

External links

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