Founded in 1980 as On-Line Systems, the company began when Ken Williams took on the daunting task of programming his wife Roberta's hand-written game concept into the first graphic/text adventure game ever created. Dubbed Hi-Res Adventure #1: Mystery House, the game's marriage of text and graphics became the product upon which all other graphics adventures were measured.
The success of the game allowed Ken and Roberta to move out of Los Angeles, first to Coarsegold, later to Oakhurst, California. Relating to their new location at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the company changed its name to Sierra On-Line in 1982.
Soon after the success of Mystery House, Roberta Williams created her second adventure game, the Wizard and the Princess, which sold more than sixty thousand copies; a substantial sell through for the early 1980s. Like her previous game, it set the industry standard for home computer entertainment.
The following years brought many similar successes. Sierra's most popular series, King's Quest, earned international recognition and numerous industry awards. To date the series has sold more than 3 million copies, making Roberta Williams one of the best-selling computer game designers in the industry.
Over the years Sierra On-Line, Inc. has had some of the best-selling game series that can be directly attributed to some of the best-known names in computer game development. Including renowned designers Roberta Williams (King's Quest), David Lester (Lords of the Realm, Caesar), Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight), David Kaemmer (Indy Car, NASCAR Racing), Jeff Tunnell (Starsiege) and Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry).
A series of acquisitions has helped Sierra expand its development expertise into additional categories including sports, simulations, strategy, home productivity, and casual entertainment.
Founded in 1984 by Jeff Tunnell and Damon Slye, Dynamix became a member of the Sierra family in 1990. Dynamix then expanded its product line to include the multi-award winning Red Baron, Aces of the Pacific and Aces over Europe. In addition to the flight sim titles of those earlier years, Dynamix published family titles (Incredible Machine and 3-D Ultra Pinball). Dynamix has developed products for three of Sierra's family of brands: Sierra Attractions (3-D Ultra’ line), Sierra Sports (Trophy Bass), and Dynamix, a Sierra Company (flight simulations and action games).
Bright Star Technologies entered the Sierra family in 1992. Founded by Elon Gasper, inventor of HyperAnimation and the principal author of Alphabet Blocks, Bright Star is a key player in multimedia technology. In addition to the well-known Talking Tutors series, Bright Star has developed multimedia language programs such as Berlitz Live! Spanish and Berlitz Live! Japanese.
Sierra's 1993 acquisition of Coktel Vision, a Paris-based developer and publisher of education and entertainment software, added titles such as Goblins and the Inca series to the Sierra family of products.
1995 saw a number of acquisitions, primarily in the home productivity genre. In May, Sierra purchased the rights to Print Artist, a program that enables users to quickly and easily create and print their own professional-quality documents. The acquisition of Green Thumb Software contributed home gardening and landscape products to the company's growing home productivity line. Arion software, publisher of the acclaimed MasterCook culinary series, was folded into the Sierra family in September.
During 1995, Sierra purchased Impressions Games, a leading publisher of strategy games. Known for such products as Caesar II, Caesar III, Lords of the Realm, High Seas Trader and The Blue and The Gray, Impressions improved Sierra's strategy game offerings.
Sierra also purchased Papyrus Design Group and SubLogic in 1995. Papyrus, was primarily known for its racing simulations was the developer of NASCAR Racing. SubLogic developed flight simulation software within Dynamix.
Sierra completed two acquisitions in April of 1997. The first was Berkeley Systems, publishers of the You Don't Know Jack series and the commercially successful After Dark screensaver series and the popular bezerk network. Books That Work also joined the Sierra family. Books That Work develops software that guides users through the design, visualization and building processes of home-related projects, such as landscapes, gardens, decks, kitchens, and entire houses. Its best-known titles include 3D Deck, 3D Kitchen, 3D Landscape, and Visual Home.
Sierra sold to CUC International
In 1996, Sierra was sold for $1.06 billion in stock to CUC International. The acquisition, announced on February 20, 1996, was completed on July 24, 1996. By then CUC (Comp-U-Card) International was a Stamford, Connecticut based, technology-driven retail and membership services company that provided access to travel, shopping, auto, dining, home improvement, financial, and other services to nearly 40 million consumers worldwide. Chairman of CUC was Walter Forbes, one of the members of the board of Sierra.
A year later Sierra became part of Cendant Software, at that time one of the largest PC consumer software groups in the world. On December 18, 1997, CUC merged with HFS Incorporated and became Cendant Corporation. Cendant Software consolidated the sales, manufacturing, finance, accounting and management of Cendant Corporation's software divisions, including Sierra, Knowledge Adventure, Davidson & Associates, Inc. and Blizzard Entertainment.
Havas Interactive Acquisition and Afterwards
In January of 1999, Sierra and its affiliates were acquired by Havas, S.A. Through the acquisition, Cendant Software became Havas Interactive. Its holdings were, Blizzard, Coktel, Knowledge Adventure, Sierra, and WON.net. Havas Interactive had operations in the US and in Europe and is a subsidiary of the French publishing house Havas, part of Vivendi Communications. In June 2000, Havas Interactive was reformed as Vivendi Universal and on October 2001, Sierra's logo was reverted to the famous Half-Dome logo. Afterwards, on February 19, 2002, Sierra On-Line was renamed to Sierra Entertainment.
The year 2004, however, was a bad year for Sierra. Sierra's parent company, Vivendi Universal Games, decided to take cost-cutting measures and the former subsidiaries of Sierra, all renowned companies such as Impressions and Papyrus were shut down in spring of 2004, while Sierra's HQ in Bellevue was shut down in June of the same year for good. From then on, Sierra became a label of Vivendi Universal Games.
However, in late 2005, Sierra was relaunched, this time from Los Angeles, with a new brand, Sierra Online, for indie publishing purposes. Also, new companies that acquired by Vivendi Games were joined to the Sierra family, including High Moon, Radical, Swordfish, Massive and Secret Lair, with the latter renamed to Sierra Online Seattle and Sierra Online Shanghai(Chinese division of Secret Lair), respectively. Also, some Vivendi Games properties, most notably the Crash Bandicoot, were transferred to Sierra.
In July 2008, however, Vivendi Games was merged with Activision that resulted to a new holding company, Activision Blizzard, making Sierra redundant. On October 2008, Sierra was disbanded, with majority of it's subsidiaries, with the exception of High Moon and Radical, are either closed or sold, with all of their titles that listed as TBA at the time were either cancelled or published under the Activision brand.
Revival of the Sierra Brand
In August 2014, the website of Sierra was updated, with a new logo and a text, saying that they would be on GamesCom 2014. Afterwards, Sierra, this time a continuation of the former Sierra Online division rather than Sierra itself, has unveiled two games - Geometry Wars 3 and King's Quest, slated to be released in November 25, 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Contributed by William Shawn McDonie (1088) on Jan 27, 2001. [revised by : 6 other people].