Jez San

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Jez San
Born (1966-03-29) 29 March 1966 (age 49)
Occupation Game programmer, entrepreneur

Jeremy 'Jez' San OBE (born 29 March 1966) is an English game programmer and entrepreneur who founded Argonaut Software as a teenager in the 1980s. He is also a writer and helped design the Super FX chip for the Super NES.


San's interest in computing began at age 12 when he bought his first computer, a TRS-80. Within a year he taught himself assembly language, which he soon mastered for several microprocessors.

San started his career in software by founding Argonaut Software in 1982 as a way to get software consulting jobs with large companies. He worked on security systems with British Telecom and Acorn. In 1984, he started developing his first game, Skyline Attack for the Commodore 64, and also co-wrote a book, Quantum Theory, about the Sinclair QL. He also took an active interest in online services, becoming a wizard (admin) at Essex MUD, the world's first multiplayer online role-playing game.[1]

His first major success was his 1986 game Starglider for the Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies (earning him £2 per copy in royalties) and was one of the first popular 3D computer games. The money helped launch Argonaut as a larger company that started hiring other people in 1986.

In the late 1980s, Argonaut signed a deal with Nintendo. San attracted Nintendo's attention because Argonaut was the first developer to successfully design 3D modelling on the NES and the Game Boy. X was published by Nintendo as the first 3D Game Boy game. San helped develop the first 3D graphics accelerator known as the Super FX chip that made Star Fox (released as Starwing in Europe) possible on the Super NES.

In 1996, Argonaut received external funding from Apax Partners and was listed publicly on the London Stock Exchange in 2000. San's stake was reduced from 90% in 1996 to almost 50% post Argonaut Games' IPO in March 2000. San also helped found ARC International when it was spun out from Argonaut in 1998 and was its largest shareholder on IPO. San made substantial share sales during the flotation by Goldman Sachs and Warburg and in 2007 fully exited ARC. Between 1999 and 2002, San funded Codeplay and is currently[when?] the majority shareholder.

San received an OBE in 2002, the first explicitly awarded for services to the computer game industry. Since that time, others have been honoured including Peter Molyneux, Ian Livingstone and Jane Cavanagh.

After announcing a substantial loss in August 2004, Argonaut Group PLC suspended trading of its shares in October and appointed administrators for Argonaut Software Ltd, Morpheme Ltd and Just Add Monsters Ltd—the wholly owned subsidiaries of the PLC. The administrators sold Morpheme and Just Add Monsters back to Jez San and the other founders as ongoing businesses, while Argonaut Software Ltd was eventually liquidated.[2]

In November 2004, Just Add Monsters became Ninja Theory and continued the development of PlayStation 3 first-party game Heavenly Sword, which debuted three years later in September 2007. Also in 2004, Morpheme became Morpheme Wireless Ltd for a while before San left, was eventually consumed by Eidos/SCi before being shut down in 2009.

After taking a hiatus from the computer games industry in 2004, San founded Crunchy Frog Ltd, which in 2005 became online poker company PKR.[3] San serves as President, having hired his replacement with CEO Malcolm Graham,[3] formerly of the Ritz Casino and AntFactory. PKR offers a unique 3D perspective for online poker, and operates in legal territories in Europe, Asia and Canada but does not operate in the USA, where online gambling is a grey area.

In 2008, San co-founded mobile application developer and publisher Origin8 with game industry colleague Foo Katan. The company produces iPhone and BlackBerry software, and has offices in London.

San is a life member of BAFTA, and was an advisory board member of the GDC and TIGA for several years.


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