Activision has hinted that it may be getting back into the adventure game market, resurrecting a brand gamers of a certain age will remember well: Sierra.
Activision looks to be bringing the venerable Sierra brand back to life, promising to reveal the future of the adventure game pioneer at Gamescom next week.
Founded as On-Line Systems, then Sierra On-Line and Sierra Entertainment, by husband and wife team Ken and Roberta Williams, Sierra was responsible for some of the best-known adventure games of the 80s and 90s. Its first products were basic graphical adventures for Apple systems, using simple single-colour line-art graphics. The company hit its stride with the King's Quest franchise of fantasy point-and-click adventure games, which were followed by Space Quest, Police Quest, Quest for Glory and the tongue-in-cheek Leisure Suit Larry series by Al Lowe - based loosely on the delightfully named 1981 text adventure Softporn Adventure by Chuck Benton.
The 1990s saw the launch of the Gabriel Knight franchise, which was highly successful, and Freddy Pharkas, which was not. A mixed reception for interactive horror Phantasmagoria spelled trouble for the company, which was bought out in a $1.5 billion deal by CUC International in 1996. The company was split into three units, then into six, and while it saw success as the publisher of Valve's Half Life - before Valve itself would get into the publishing game - financial irregularities at CUC - now Cedant - in 1998 caused a scandal from which Sierra struggled to emerge.
In 1999, Sierra would shut down the majority of its studios and cut 250 jobs, including Al Lowe. Its last first-party game, Gabriel Knight 3, was released that year; its relatively poor sales saw another 135 staff cut, with even more job losses following the merger that created Vivendi Universal. The brand was relaunched in 2005 with an on-line game focus - ironic, given the Williams' original name for the company - but was closed down again in 2008 when Vivendi Games merged with Activision.
At the time, Activision was believed to be looking to sell the Sierra brand on - but now it appears that the company is hoping for a rebirth, sending a website
live that teases a Sierra-themed unveiling at the Gamescom event in Cologne next week. Very little information is available at present, beyond an animation of a climber racing towards a mountain recognisable as that of Sierra's logo and the caption 'more to be revealed at Gamescom 2014.
Should it prove to be a return to its glory days, the rebirth of Sierra will be something to celebrate; if it results in more titles like 2004's Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude - created by High Voltage Software without the input of series creator Al Lowe - then it will be something to forget.