Sierra goes the way of Atari
This is a sad day. Vivendi Universal Games, who currently owns Sierra, announced that they were shutting down Sierra's Seattle headquarters in a "restructuring move", and that Sierra would live on in name only.
I was going to title this "Sierra On-line Goes Off-Line", but thought that was too cheesy even for me. Especially for such a serious topic: In an effort to reduce costs, Vivendi Universal has closed the last of Sierra. Much like what has become of "Atari", the "Sierra" name will still be used when publishing games, but that's all it is, a name.
Sierra is most recently known for publishing Valve's Half-Life series, but their portfolio extends far beyond that. In fact, they are probably best known for Roberta Williams's "King's Quest" (who in 1979 co-founded On-Line Systems, which later was renamed to Sierra On-Line, with her husband Ken in Oakhurst, California).
Sierra On-Line never was much for console development, and probably saw their 'heyday' in the 80's and early 1990's. I remember how surprised, and excited, I was when I saw Sierra On-Line listed as a member of N64's "Dream Team." Alas, I don't think they ever made even one game for the system (Red Barron was cancelled).
Personally, I used to be a HUGE Sierra fan, and in many ways still am. I have a box full of old Sierra game boxes I collected over the years, many I can't use since they are on 5.25" floppies (remember those?). Sierra was so big at one point in time that they even published their own magazine (InterAction) much like Nintendo's Nintendo Power. The only game company I think I've played, and owned, more of than Sierra is Nintendo.
Most of Sierra's classic games followed in the vein of "King's Quest", a point-and-click 'quest' adventure. My favorites of which being the original "Gabriel Knight" and "Quest for Glory 4". Of course they did more than just that though, like their RPG classic, "Betrayal at Krondor". They were even more than just developers and were the publishers of many games. If I were to make a list of my favorite games most people had never heard of, Epyx's 1994 Sierra published "Battle Bugs" might be at the very top of that list. Think "Pikmin" with preset armies of bugs that you had to overcome and control. It was an excellent strategy game. If I wanted to, I could go on and on listing great games to come out of Sierra.
However, times have changed in the video game industry. Already in recent years Sierra Interactive has become more and more of a publishing label than a development house. They probably spread themselves too thin by acquiring the likes of Dynamix and Berkeley Systems in the 90's, and were sold to CUC International (Cendant Software) in 1996 who specialized in mail order. What followed was bad management, cooked books, and the ousting of the Williams which basically destroyed the company. (Before Vivendi bought them, Sierra was owned for a short time by Havas Entertainment in 1999.) While the last of Sierra has been closed, the reality is Sierra as a game developer hasn't existed since 1999.
Like I said, Sierra has always been mainly a PC developer, and with consoles becoming more and more the choice of gaming, even for hardcore gamers, this closing comes at no surprise. But that doesn't make it any less disappointing. I just hope they don't make a mockery of the name like Activision has done with Atari. It's bad enough the Sierra development studio is no more.
For those of you solely living in the world dominated by the likes of EA and THQ, here is a list of games Sierra has given us over the years (most games published and developed by Sierra/Sierra On-Line/Sierra Entertainment unless otherwise noted).
The Wizard and the Princess / Adventures in Serenia
3-D Ultra Pinball
Caesar II (Impressions)
Casino De Luxe (Impressions)
Gabriel Knight 2 - The Beast Within
Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier
The Last Dynasty (Coktel Vision)
Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth (Coktel Vision)
Police Quest V - S.W.A.T.