Sierra Entertainment

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Sierra Entertainment

legal form Private, a subsidiary of Activision
founding 1979
2014 (newly founded)
resolution 2008
Seat Los Angeles , USA
management Mark Tremblay, President
Number of employees 510
Branch Game developer , publisher

Sierra Entertainment (founded as On-Line Systems , known as Sierra On-Line from 1982 to 1998 ) is an American publisher and developer of computer games . The company was founded in 1979 by the couple Ken and Roberta Williams . In the 1980s and 1990s it was one of the most important companies in the industry, but after the company founders withdrew in 1996, it increasingly lost its importance. The company remained active under changing owners until 2008. After the merger of the parent company Vivendi Games with Activision to form Activision Blizzard , Sierra was closed and the use of the brand was abandoned. In August 2014, Activision Blizzard announced a revival of the brand label at gamescom .


Sierra under Ken and Roberta Williams

Sierra was founded in 1979 as On-Line Systems by Ken and Roberta Williams , who worked on the game development in their own home. Her first game was Mystery House , the world's first graphic adventure game .

Formerly Sierra logo

In 1982 the company was changed to Sierra On-Line and the company moved to Oakhurst, California , south of Yosemite National Park . The Half Dome located there graced the studio's logo for many years. In 1984, Sierra developed King's Quest , originally published by IBM to demonstrate the advanced technology of the IBM PCjr . The success of this game, which was gradually ported to other platforms , was the beginning of one of the most successful Sierra series and was the trigger for Sierra to develop a number of computer games based on the Quest theme. In the following years Sierra was always at the forefront of computer game design and developed some big box office hits, but also some failures.

In 1990, Sierra began buying up other companies including Dynamix (1990), Bright Star Technologies (1992), Coktel Vision (1993) and Impressions Games (1995). Sierra also bought Green Thumb Software (1995), Arion Software (1995), Papyrus Design Group (1995) and Berkeley Systems (1997). In 1995 the rights to Print Artist , a publishing program that allows users to produce prints from high-resolution images, were also acquired.

In 1991, Sierra launched an online service called The Sierra Network . Launched before the WWW , it was comparable to providers such as Compuserve or Prodigy, only that its surface was completely graphical. Thematically, it was a mixture of a kingdom and an amusement park , in which users could visit different “landscapes” and post on bulletin boards , send e-mails or play games. It was renamed ImagiNation Network and sold to AT&T in 1994 , which in turn sold it to AOL in 1996 .

In 1994, Sierra's headquarters were relocated to Bellevue, Washington , to attract more talented employees.

Takeover and decline

In July 1996 Sierra was sold to CUC International ; Ken Williams left Sierra a year later. Acquisitions of Books That Work , PyroTechnix and Headgate (all 1997) followed. In December 1997, CUC merged with HFS Incorporated to form Cendant Software . After it became known of "irregularities" in the financial management of Cendant Software (in the amount of more than 300 million US dollars ) in April 1998 Sierra was sold on to the French publisher Havas , which in turn was taken over by the media group Vivendi in the same year .

In 1998 Sierra was split into five separate departments:

  1. Sierra Attractions: This department developed games like Hoyle , You Don't Know Jack, and others.
  2. Sierra Home: Responsible for household software applications such as Print Artist , Hallmark Card Studios , the MasterCook series, My Family Tree and others.
  3. Sierra Sports: Published sports games developed by Papyrus Design Group and other studios.
  4. Sierra Studios: This department developed the "big" games like King's Quest and published Sierra's games. The headquarters of this department was located in Bellevue, with studios such as Impressions Software and PyroTechnix working externally. Sierra Studios also released games from independent developers.
  5. Dynamix: The same company that was bought in 1990. The studio was responsible for developing 3D combat simulations such as Red Baron , Starsiege and Pro Pilot as well as flight simulators .

The Sierra offices in Oakhurst were spun off in 1998 and renamed Yosemite Entertainment.

On February 22, 1999, an internal decision by Sierra resulted in the closure of many development studios, the most surprising closure being that of Yosemite Entertainment. This day, on which Sierra announced a comprehensive reorganization of the company, is referred to as "Black Monday" by Sierra fans. Other studios that closed included PyroTechnix, Books That Work, and Synergistic; a total of 135 employees lost their jobs as a result of the closings. Also in 1999 the company was restructured again. This time it was divided into a main title development department (Sierra Studios), a sports games department (Sierra Attractions) and an entertainment software department (Sierra Home). Another 105 employees lost their jobs in the course of this reorganization. At this time, the company also changed its priorities away from computer game development towards releasing games from independent developers. In 2002 the company's name was changed to Sierra Entertainment.

In June 2004 Vivendi reorganized its games division, distributed the remaining projects of Sierra to other departments and closed the main offices of Sierra in Bellevue in August of the same year. Vivendi planned to reboot the brand with new management and new studios, as well as a new portfolio of brands including Crash Bandicoot , Spyro the Dragon and Scarface: The World Is Yours . However, the plans were no longer implemented.

Closure and resuscitation

In January 2008, Sierra's parent company Vivendi Games and competitor Activision announced their merger to form the new industry leader Activision Blizzard . In July, following an internal review, Sierra was classified as not of strategic importance to the merged company. Numerous game developments commissioned under Vivendi were discontinued and a closure or sale was examined. As early as August 2008, the British game magazine Edge speculated about the discontinuation of the Sierra brand name. In October 2008, numerous multiplayer servers for Sierra games were shut down. On November 1, 2008, many of the websites for the respective games were shut down or redirected to the Activision homepage and the name was shut down. An independent developer group called AGD Interactive reissued some of the classic Sierra adventures of the 1980s and 1990s.

In August 2014, Activision Blizzard announced at the Gamescom trade fair in Cologne that it would revive the Sierra brand name and publish new games under the label. The first titles to be announced are a new title in the King's Quest series , designed by developer The Odd Gentleman, and Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions from Lucid Games. King's Quest was released in five episodes between July 28, 2015 and October 25, 2016.

Companies in the Sierra Group

Acquired companies

Companies that published games for Sierra


One of the trademarks of many Sierra titles (including almost all of their adventure games) is that they contain extremely numerous, diverse and sometimes very bizarre possibilities for the character to die and thus end the game prematurely. In addition to their very clear to brutal representation, despite the mostly cartoon-like graphic style, each individual death (or other game over) of the game (in later titles usually by the narrator) is commented on sarcastically, with these comments sometimes even containing one or more tips on how the player can resolve the situation next time. This stylistic device has achieved a level of awareness among Sierra fans that goes so far that videos can be found on YouTube, in which all possible deaths (plus comments) are shown in a Sierra adventure like King's Quest or Space Quest ; Furthermore, it was also taken into account and adopted in various fan remakes of the games, partly expanded again compared to the original.


Games published after re-establishment

Games released until 2008


Screenshot of Mystery House , the first graphic adventure game
  • Leisure Suit Larry - Series ("real" name: Larry Laffer )
    1. Softporn Adventure (1981, predecessor of Leisure Suit Larry )
    2. Leisure Suit Larry In the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987, improved version 1991)
    3. Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places) (1988)
    4. Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals (1989)
    5. Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (1991)
    6. Laffer Utilities (1992)
    7. Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! (1993)
    8. Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail (1995)
    9. Leisure Suit Larry's Casino (1998)
    10. Leisure Suit Larry 8: Lust in Space (not released)
    11. Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (2004, not by original designer Al Lowe )
  • Police Quest - series
    1. Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (1987, VGA - Remake 1992)
    2. Police Quest II: The Vengeance (1988)
    3. Police Quest III: The Kindred (1991)
    4. Police Quest IV: Open Season (1993)
  • Manhunter - series
    1. Manhunter: New York (1988)
    2. Manhunter 2: San Francisco (1989)
  • Quest-for-Glory - Series (previously: Hero's Quest )
    1. Quest for Glory I (aka Hero's Quest I): So You Want to be a Hero (1989, improved version 1991)
    2. Quest for Glory II (aka Hero's Quest II): Trial by Fire (1990)
    3. Quest for Glory III: Wages of War (dt .: The wages of war ) (1992)
    4. Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness (dt .: Shadow of Darkness ) (1994)
    5. Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire (German: Drachenfeuer ) (1998)
  • EcoQuest - series
    1. EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (1991)
    2. EcoQuest 2: Lost Secret of the Rainforest (1993)
  • Gabriel Knight - series
    1. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (Eng .: The Sins of the Fathers ) (1993)
    2. Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (1995)
    3. Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (English: Blood of the Saints, Blood of the Damned ) (1999)
  • Phantasmagoria series
    1. Phantasmagoria (1995)
    2. Phantasmagoria II: A Puzzle of Flesh (1996)

Other games

  • The Incredible Machine series
    1. The Incredible Machine (1992)
    2. The Incredible Machine 2 (1994)
    3. The Incredible Toon Machine (1994)
    4. The Incredible Machine 3.0 (1995)
    5. The Even More Incredible Machine (1996)
    6. Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions (2000)
    7. The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions (2001)
  • Outpost series
    1. Outpost (1994)
    2. Outpost 2: Divided Destiny (1997)
  • Hoyle’s series
    1. Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 1 (1989)
    2. Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 2 (1990)
    3. Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 3 (1991)
    4. Hoyle Casino
    5. Hoyle Board Games
    6. Hoyle Card Games
    7. Hoyle Kids Games
    8. Hoyle Puzzle Games
    9. Hoyle Table Games
    10. Hoyle Solitaire (1996)
    11. Hoyle Backgammon and Cribbage (1999)
    12. Hoyle Casino Empire (2002)
    13. Hoyle Majestic Chess (2003)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Historian looking to interview those who knew Sierra On-Line owners / company. In: The Sierra Star. September 10, 2014, accessed October 4, 2019 : "People across the world still recognize the Sierra logo, which is an image of the Half Dome."
  2. Sierra On-Line's Quarterly Report with the SEC , August 14, 1995, accessed September 10, 2019
  3. Pierre de Gasquet: L'américain Sierra-On-Line absorbe Coktel Vision . In: Les Échos . May 4, 1994 (French, [accessed September 10, 2019]).
  4. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Bellevue to lose game studio
  5. a b Sierra Shutting Down Game Servers
  6. PC Games Hardware : Activision Blizzard: The New No. 1 , January 14, 2008 (accessed November 14, 2008)
  7. Activision Blizzard 'streamlining' Vivendi
  8. Why Sierra Must Die ( Memento from June 28, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Game legend Sierra returns , details will follow at Gamescom
  10. Sierra reboots with new 'King's Quest' and 'Geometry Wars' games
  11. ^ Death in Adventure Games - Retrieved June 5, 2016 .
  12. Ways to Die Space Quest 1 Remake - YouTube. Retrieved June 5, 2016 .
  13. product page King's Quest