Companies come and go. That’s life. But some live in the memory even, if not in actuality. We’ve picked five that blazed across the sky, then dimmed or disappeared…
For all its immaturity, you can tell the videogame industry is getting on in years. With increasing, even alarming, frequency, the faces of our youth have begun to disappear – forced from the market, absorbed into conglomerates, restructured into oblivion, or simply retired from the grind.
The first big wave hit back in the mid ’90s, when increased development costs, the demise of the American arcade, and the shift from 2D development left dozens of small and mid-sized developers – from Toaplan to Technos – out in the cold. Those that didn’t die completely – Sunsoft, Vic Tokai – often pulled out of the US market, or even out of the videogame business. Western outfits braced for the storm by merging with larger and ever larger publishing conglomerates, rationalizing that it was the only way to survive in an uncertain market.
The second wave came only a few years ago, after the burst of the tech bubble. In effort to streamline costs, parent companies began to dump their holdings left and right, regardless of the legacy or talent involved. Those that didn’t often went bankrupt, pulling all of their precious acquisitions down with them. Sometimes the talent moved on and regrouped under a new game; still, when an era’s over, it’s over.
This article is a tribute to five fallen icons of the videogame industry – developers and publishers who made their mark, changed the world, then vanished into history. Sometimes they went with a bang; sometimes a whimper. All, however, leave a hole that will never entirely be filled. The industry would be very different, were they all with us today.