Anybody can do a cartridge…
Everyone has had one of these days, a day that sees you totally hacked of with the way the higher echelons of management treat you. No recognition for the work that you’ve completed, a poor salary compared to the revenue your skill set generates – this was one of those a days David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead had back it the late seventies. The gang of four deprecated by their boss Ray Kasser and labelled “towel designers” used this derogatory, demeaning, devalued tone as a catalyst and the Atari men soon left the company to begin a business venture of their own.
But in 1979, the concept of third party developers did not exist, console video games were exclusively developed first party, the common opinion of the time was to “make software” you need to make the “hardware first” and so under direction of legal advice the men sought out Jim Levy who was keen to get into software for the emerging computer market. He was raising venture capital and having talked and agreeing with David, Larry, Alan and Bob about their plans he helped them raise a million dollars in funding.
Computer Arts Incorporated as it was first called became real in October 1979, VSync was also suggested as a business name, although the founders feared public confusion about meaning and pronunciation. A suggestion from Jim Levy to combine “active” and “television” to become Activision and so working from David Crane’s garage under the name of Activision the four men began working on games. The first four games released were Dragster, Fishing Derby, Checkers and Boxing – with brightly coloured boxes, including an in-game screenshot on the rear of the box and an instruction manual with at least a full page of credit given to the developer, a kind of screw you Atari.
Kaboom! was the first million seller, followed by Pitfall, an absolute treasure of a game for Activision. Fast-forward four decades and today most gamer’s associate Bobby Kotick as the good, the bad and the real ugly. A man whose Activision tenure has been both a dark reign and transformation, with that the duty has been acquired by another predator, Microsoft. Pause for thought, if David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead had back in the late seventies been treated with respect at Atari, paid a king’s salary and received fair recognition would Atari survived and prospered with better games that were developed in house leaving no room for Xbox to state into the arena? Then again, if Atari was still a beast of company would Microsoft simply not open the cheque book.
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