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Feature: 'The History of Activision'

Nowadays, Activision is a massive worldwide publisher, responsible for Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero, but it all started with just four game developers leaving Atari in 1979, and in today's feature, Gamasutra presents <a href="http://www.gamasu

Leigh Alexander

July 30, 2007

2 Min Read

Nowadays, Activision is a massive worldwide publisher, responsible for Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero, but it all started with just four game developers leaving Atari in 1979, and in today's feature, Gamasutra presents a history of the first ever third-party publisher, with insight from company co-founder David Crane. When Crane joined Atari in 1977, the company was at the crux of its maturation from a feisty Silicon Valley start-up into a mass-market entertainment company, gaining financial stability from its recent sale to Warner Communications -- as well as the foundation to push into the home market with its new VCS console. But with greater success came greater corporate structure, and Crane recalls how a memo about cartridge sales changed it all in the following excerpt: "The intent of the memo was to alert the game development staff to what types of games were selling well,” Crane recalled. “This memo backfired however, as it demonstrated the value of the game designer individually. Video game design in those days was a one-man process with one person doing the creative design, the storyboards, the graphics, the music, the sound effects, every line of programming, and final play testing. So when I saw a memo that the games for which I was 100 percent responsible had generated over $20 million in revenues, I was one of the people wondering why I was working in complete anonymity for a $20,000 salary,” Crane said. And Crane was not the only one. You can now read the complete feature, which details the full story of the now-famous "Gang of Four," comprised of Crane and three other disgruntled Atari employees -- Alan Miller, Larry Kaplan, and Bob Whitehead -- and the challenges they faced, along with the successes they earned, on their way to becoming Activision (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

About the Author(s)

Leigh Alexander

Contributor

Leigh Alexander is Editor At Large for Gamasutra and the site's former News Director. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Slate, Paste, Kill Screen, GamePro and numerous other publications. She also blogs regularly about gaming and internet culture at her Sexy Videogameland site. [NOTE: Edited 10/02/2014, this feature-linked bio was outdated.]

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