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MicroProse (1982)

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  Summary  

MicroProse was a video game publisher and developer, founded by Wild Bill Stealey and Sid Meier in 1982 as Microprose Software. In 1993, the company became a subsidiary of Spectrum HoloByte and has remained a subsidiary or brand name under several other corporations since. The brand is currently owned by Interactive Game Group.

  Biography  

Founded in 1982 by Bill Stealey and Sid Meier, Microprose Software Inc. was primarily known as a publisher of flight, military simulation, and strategy titles for 8-bit home computers such as the Commodore 64, Apple II, and Atari 8-bit family, with titles such as Spitfire Ace and Hellcat Ace. It also published a few strategy games at the time.

As industry changed over to 16-bit and 32-bit CPUs in late 1980s, MicroProse started supporting IBM PC compatibles and 68000-based machines like the Amiga and Atari ST. MicroProse also started a UK branch to cross-publish titles in Europe, and to import some European titles to be published in the US. Notable products from this period include Silent Service, Airborne Ranger, Pirates!, F-19 Stealth Fighter, and Gunship.

In 1990 and 1991 MicroProse released the blockbusters Railroad Tycoon and Civilization, by Sid Meier, on multiple platforms. They quickly became two of the best-selling strategy games of all time and spawned multiple sequels.

MicroProse also released Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix to adulation in 1991. The Amiga and Atari ST versions were released first, and the DOS version followed in early 1992. The game was considered the best Formula One sim to date.

In 1992, MicroProse acquired Leeds-based flight simulation developer Vektor Grafix, who had already developed titles for them such as B-17, turning it into a satellite development studio.

 Diversification
In the early 1990s, MicroProse attempted to diversify beyond its niche roots as a flight sim and military sim company, and created two labels, MicroStyle in the UK, and MicroPlay in the US. This label released games like the Rick Dangerous series , Stunt Car Racer and Xenophobe .

MicroProse also invested a large sum of money to create an adventure game engine with which it could produce several games. However, the arcade division was canceled after making only two games: F-15 Strike Eagle The Arcade Game, and B.O.T.S.S. . Both of which featured high-end 3D graphics, and failed to become popular as it was too different from existing machines. The adventure game engine was finished, but only three games were published before it was shelved and sold off to Sanctuary Woods.

Insufficient financial resources prevented MicroProse from developing games for other game platforms such as PlayStation and Nintendo 64, therefore MicroProse remained concentrated on the PC game market.

 Under Spectrum HoloByte

In 1993, MicroProse Software Inc. was acquired by Spectrum HoloByte, another game company that specialized in simulation games. Founder Bill Stealey was good friends with Spectrum HoloByte president Gilman Louie, and convinced Louie to help MicroProse as Stealey was afraid that some bank would not understand the company culture. That same year, the UK office of MicroProse closed two satellite offices in northern England, and disposed of over forty staff at its Chipping Sodbury head office. In 1994, Bill Stealey departed MicroProse Software and Spectrum HoloByte agreed to buy out his shares. Bill Stealey went on to found Interactive Magic, another simulation software company.

Despite cuts, Spectrum Holobyte managed to line up several big name licenses, including Top Gun, Magic: The Gathering, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and later MechWarrior . Also, the UK import UFO: Enemy Unknown, renamed as X-COM: UFO Defense, proved to be an unanticipated hit in 1994.

In 1996, Spectrum HoloByte/MicroProse bought out Simtex, developer of Master of Orion and Master of Magic, among other MicroProse bestsellers. Simtex was rebranded as MicroProse Texas, based in Austin, Texas.

MicroProse Software continued as separate subsidiary company under Spectrum HoloByte until 1996. That year, Spectrum HoloByte started cutting a majority of the MicroProse staff to reduce costs. Soon after, it consolidated all of its titles under the MicroProse brand . Sid Meier and Jeff Briggs departed the company after the staff cut, forming a new company called Firaxis Games. Brian Reynolds, who designed Civilization II, also moved to Firaxis. A core group of artists, designers, and programmers left MicroProse UK to join Psygnosis, which opened an office in Stroud, United Kingdom, specifically to attract ex-MicroProse employees.

 GT Interactive's $250 million cancelled offer

On October 5, 1997, GT Interactive announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire MicroProse for $250 million in stock, the deal had even been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of both companies. After the announcement MicroProse's stock price reached $7 a share. GT Interactive expected the deal to be completed by the end of that year.

But on December 5 the acquisition was cancelled, according to both CEOs "the time is simply not right" for the deal. MicroProse's stock plummeted to just $2.31 after the announcement of the deal's cancellation.

 Legal dispute over the Civilization brand

In November 1997 MicroProse was sued by both Avalon Hill and Activision for copyright infringement. MicroProse responded by buying Hartland Trefoil, which had used the Civilization name in early game products and then sued Avalon Hill and Activision for trademark infringement and unfair business practices as a result of Activision's decision to develop and publish Civilization computer games. Because Hasbro was negotiating the acquisition of both Avalon Hill and MicroProse, the lawsuits were settled in July 1998. Under the terms of the settlement MicroProse became the sole owner of the rights of the name Civilization and Activision acquired a license to publish a Civilization computer game which was later called Civilization: Call to Power.

 Under Hasbro Interactive
In preparation for its sale, MicroProse closed down its studio in Austin, Texas, in June 1998. As a result of the closure, 35 employees were laid off.

On August 14, 1998, Hasbro issued a $70 million cash tender offer to purchase all MicroProse's shares for $6 each. This deal was completed on September 14, when Hasbro bought 91% of MicroProse's shares and announded that MicroProse had become a wholly owned subsidiary. The remaining shares would also be acquired for $6 in cash. MicroProse was merged with Hasbro Interactive.

At the time of Hasbro's acquisition, MicroProse had 343 employees, including 135 at Alameda, California, with a total cost of $20 million per year.. Besides the development studio in Alameda, MicroProse had three other studios: Hunt Valley, Maryland; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Chipping Sodbury, England.

In December 1998, MicroProse finally managed to publish Falcon 4.0. However, the initial release was plagued with bugs and the simulation of a real F-16 was so authentic — and thus complicated — that it intimidated most gamers, resulting in disappointing sales.

In December 1999, Hasbro Interactive closed down former MicroProse studios in Alameda and Chapel Hill. Among titles in development, canceled during that period, was X-COM: Genesis.

 Under Infogrames
In January 2001, after French game publisher Infogrames Entertainment, SA took over Hasbro Interactive for $100 million, MicroProse ceased to exist. Its latest title in the US, European Air War, was reissued with Infogrames' logo instead of the MicroProse logo. The last new game released with the MicroProse name was the UK version of Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4, in late 2002. Infogrames shut down the former MicroProse studio in Chipping Sodbury, United Kingdom, in September 2002. Hasbro Interactive was renamed to Infogrames Interactive and then to Atari Interactive.

Infogrames intermittently used the Atari name as a brand name for selected titles before officially changing the U.S. subsidiary's name to Atari, Inc. in 2003. In November 2003, Atari Inc. closed the last former MicroProse development studio in Hunt Valley, Maryland, which was MicroProse's original location. However, several game developers now exist in the area, including Firaxis Games and BreakAway Games, who all owe their origin to MicroProse.

 Under Interactive Game Group
In summer 2007, Interactive Game Group acquired the MicroProse brand from Atari Interactive Inc, which filed for transfer of trademark protection on December 27, 2007. Interactive Game Group then shared a percentage of the MicroProse brand to I-Drs At in January 2008. Claims as to what titles and other intellectual properties were also acquired by the Interactive Game Group from Infogrames remain unverified, and the last verified owner of Microprose properties is Infogrames.

The Interactive Game Group also licensed the MicroProse brand to the Legacy Engineering Group , which used the license to form subsidiaries called Microprose Systems and Microprose Consumer Electronics Division, selling consumer electronics from February 2008 to the second half of 2008. In October 2008, the licensing agreement between LEG and Frederic Chesnais, owner of Interactive Game Group, was discontinued, forcing LEG to rebrand its subsidiaries to Legacy Consumer Electronics.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "MicroProse", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.