What Happened To These Once Great Video Game Companies?

Posted on 09 April 2012 by author

The year is 1999. Yahoo is the almighty king and Google is primarily used to search for cheap porn. There’s no Facebook and most gamers use modems to connect with the internet – you’re considered rich if you have a DSL line. In the gaming world, there are only few companies that will stand out once you call their names. Of course, there’s Blizzard, Bethesda, Rockstar Games. And we have companies like Sierra, Westwood Studios and that company who brought the sequels for Quake and Tony Hawk, ah yes, they call it Activision.

Living on that generation, you feel the world is everything but large; but still too small to satisfy your needs. Somehow, it feels virtuous to take a look back what happened to those great game companies now forgotten by kids who only learned the ropes of playing FPS on Call of Duty 4. We promise there’s no Y2K bug in here.

Westwood Studios

If Starcraft doesn’t fit your taste, you can always pick titles from Command & Conquer like Tiberian Sun or the crowd’s favorite, Red Alert. You see, these are the games that bought real meaning with ‘real time strategy’ and the reason why they exist on computers, or consoles, today.

Twelve years ago, Westwood Studios is a hot item. In fact, it’s so hot its titles constitute up to 6% of the total PC gaming market, attracting EA to buy it for $123 million on 1998 (a huge lump sum at that time). It’s then the company is starting to get things a little way out of their hands, and after revealing Red Alert 2 – which by the way is one of the best PC games for that decade – things aren’t getting good for WW. Customers are already souring up with the company after the launch of Yuri’s Revenge, introducing a spin-off game called C&C: Renegade. After that unwise decision, Electronic Arts is forced to liquidate the whole studio and push it with EA Los Angeles. And on 2003, the company was already obsolete.

Of course, we had Red Alert 3 on 2008, but that was all EA’s work putting the once great Westwood forgotten by the newer generation.

Sierra Entertainment

As a game company founded long before Gen-Y kids were born, it’s only expected to last for many years. Or is it? Even on the early-nineties, the company has already faced several internal issues causing them to be sold-absorbed by different corporations. The most notable effect of this destructive cycle is that major lay-off on 1999 causing hundreds of its employees to lose jobs. Still, that didn’t prevent the company from publishing two of the greatest PC games of that generation: Half-Life (1997) and Counter-Strike (1999) partnering with Valve, which at that time, is like a diamond in the ruff.

Of course, Sierra Entertainment didn’t create CS or Half-Life, but considering its partnership at that time with Valve is like Activision-Infinity Ward / Activision-Treyarch today for Call of Duty, never you would imagine the company would be destroyed after many years of hard-work. And after this never-ending cycle of getting sold, re-sold, absorbed and re-absorbed by so many companies, Sierra finally closed down in 2008 putting an end to its legacy in the industry.

Pandemic Studios

This one is just requested by some of our readers so don’t get too vigilant if we didn’t mention the highlights of this company.

So the name is Pandemic and while the company is still not fully quashed today (at least officially in paper), it’s entirely different from when it was founded on 1998. Some of its notable work only happen after the millennium, particularly on 2004 after releasing Star Wars: Battlefront published by LucasArts which is probably the best Star Wars title of that time, followed by its sequel SW: Battlefront 2 next year gathering a lot of positive feedback from players. Despite of this success, the studio was sold by its parent company (VG Holding Corp) to EA on 2008 along with Bioware. But as it turns out, the company was already in the brink of destruction. And after passing the recession years of 2009, EA decided to close its studio. In the end, EA absorbed some of its employees and most of its original devs are now part of 343 Industries, the folks who have developed Halo: Combat Evolved (Remake) and the much-anticipated Halo 4.

Companies Following The Dark Path Today

There’s only too many words you can say for a great company facing the ashes of history. But what can we learn from them? Well, if there’s one thing that would be not getting too enamored with too many projects just for the sake of money eventhough your developers aren’t up for the task. When you release the game on public, all of its problems up to the tiniest microscopic cell, will be multiplied exponentially from the keen eyes of gamers. Also, it’s noticeable that once a company is on the path of “getting sold and re-sold” to multiple buyers, it’s a sure sign things aren’t going anywhere near good.

From a gamer’s standpoint, if we can name few companies that are taking the similar path, that would be Eidos (which was already defunct on 2009 after getting acquired by Square Enix Europe) and, THQ. Now, don’t be surprised with the latter, especially after hearing all these commotions from the gamingsphere this week. Let’s just hope history won’t repeat for them so badly.

So what do you think are the other ‘great’ game companies now forgotten by the newer generation? Show your comment below.


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