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Accolade (company)

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Infogrames North America, Inc.
FormerlyAccolade, Inc. (1984–1999)
IndustryVideo games
FoundedNovember 1984; 36 years ago (1984-11)
DefunctSeptember 2000; 20 years ago (2000-09)
FateAcquired and consolidated
Area served
North America
ParentInfogrames (1999–2000)

Accolade, Inc. (renamed as Infogrames North America, Inc. in 1999) was an American video game developer and publisher based in San Jose, California. The company was founded as Accolade in November 1984 by Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead, who had previously co-founded Activision in October 1979. The company became known for numerous sports franchises, including HardBall!, Jack Nicklaus, and Test Drive. By the early 1990s, the company also published acclaimed games such as Star Control and Bubsy, but faced the financial strain of a lawsuit with Sega. After winning the case on appeal, Accolade was transformed under new investors and new management, who focused on existing franchises in the hope of securing the company's future.

Infogrames Entertainment SA purchased Accolade in 1999, and continued operating the company as a subsidiary called "Infogrames North America" until they consolidated into one Infogrames brand. Infogrames later rebranded under a revived Atari trademark, before declaring bankruptcy in 2013. The Accolade brand was later revived in 2018, when their former assets were acquired by Hong Kong-based holding company Billionsoft, leading to new Bubsy games published by Tommo.



When you’ve achieved so much success on a specific game system, it’s hard to let go of it. We saw a new market, a new challenge, and some better hardware… we wanted to move forward.

— Alan Miller[1]

Accolade was founded in 1984 by Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead; both had previously worked at Atari.[1] Miller and Whitehead believed that Atari undervalued its coding team, leading them to leave the company and start Activision in 1979.[2] Activision became the first third-party game developer, and one of the few game companies to survive the video game crash of 1983, though they still posted $18 million dollars in losses the following year.[1] After a large devaluation of their stock, Miller and Whitehead left Activision to form Accolade.[2][3]

Accolade was founded and operated in San Jose, California.[4] Whitehead and Miller saw an opportunity to develop games for home computers such as the Commodore 64, allowing their new company to diversify into a market that Activision had not yet explored.[1] This would also allow Accolade to take advantage of floppy disks as a new technology, which were less expensive to manufacture than cartridges, and did not require licensing fees to be paid to the console companies.[5] Whitehead and Miller were unable to attract investment in the video game climate of the time, leading them to self-fund their new venture. The pair hired CEO Tom Frisina to handle managerial duties and began to each work on their own launch titles.[6] They also hired Mimi Doggett, a veteran visual artist from Atari, to compete with other developers on graphical detail.[5]

Their goal for their first titles was to think beyond the gaming medium and draw inspiration from other popular entertainment, including television and film.[6] Miller's first project was Law of the West, a High Noon inspired western that mixed gunfights with adventure game elements, pioneering multiple dialog options that later became common in other games.[1] At the same time, Whitehead had previously seen success with the sports games Home Run and Football on the Atari 2600, which led to the baseball game HardBall! as his Accolade debut.[1] The game was the first to emulate the "behind the pitcher" viewpoint seen on television, and introduced new features such as coach-mode and player data.[6] It became one of Accolade's best selling games on the Commodore 64[7] and was considered a commercial blockbuster at the time.[8]

Success in sports and publishing[edit]

Accolade aimed to balance their roles as both a developer and publisher. Miller recalled that "we tried to have about half of the original titles done by employee developers and half done by external development groups." External groups would port the games to other hardware so that Accolade could focus more energy on original titles.[6] One of their first third-party games was SunDog: Frozen Legacy by FTL Games.[5] Accolade recruited Mike Lorenzen from Activision to create the science fiction game Psi 5 Trading Company,[5] drawing inspiration from Star Trek.[6] Other early successes included boxing game Fight Night,[7] developed by Canadian developer Artech Digital Entertainment.[6] Artech also created the flight simulator The Dam Busters inspired by the classic war film, which led to another flight simulator called Ace of Aces.[5] Ace of Aces became one of Accolade's most successful games,[7] selling 500,000 units after a development cost of less than $80,000.[5] As a publisher, Accolade partnered with peers such as U.S. Gold to distribute their games in Europe, before later switching to Electronic Arts, who would eventually become Accolade's biggest domestic competitor.[5]

Between 1985 and 1986, Accolade's revenues grew from $1.5 million to $5 million, thanks to titles such as Ace of Aces, a golf game called Mean 18, and a driving game called Test Drive.[9] Test Drive was created by Distinctive Software, another developer from Canada who had previously ported Accolade's games to other computer systems.[6] The game pioneered the concept of driving exotic cars at the risk of being chased by the police[5] and became one of Accolade's longest lasting and most successful series.[6] In 1987, Frisnia left as CEO and went on to found Three-Sixty Pacific.[10] Miller briefly took over as CEO until Allan Epstein was hired to lead the company in May 1988.[11][12]

A photo of professional golfer Jack Nicklaus
Accolade credits the Jack Nicklaus license with giving them an edge as a sports game publisher.

Accolade continued to earn a strong reputation as a publisher and developer of sports games.[5] As a publisher, their baseball game Hardball went on to become a consistent and prolific series,[13] with later entries created by outside developers such as Chris Taylor.[14] This allowed Whitehead time to develop original titles such as the American football game 4th & Inches, while the company published Steve Cartwright's basketball game Fast Break, as well as Artech's tennis game, Serve & Volley.[5] Most notably, Accolade's biggest success would be in golf.[5] Their golf game Mean 18, developed by Rex Bradford, went on to become the Jack Nicklaus series of games.[6] These games pioneered the "three-click" system seen in most golf games and edged out competitors thanks to the Jack Nicklaus license.[5] By 1990, Accolade released Test Drive III: The Passion,[15] developing the game in-house as the first game in the series with 3D polygon graphics.[5]

At the turn of the decade, Accolade was also exploring other game genres, developing their own graphic adventure game engine to compete with LucasArts and Sierra.[6] Infocom alumni Mike Berlyn created the adventure game Altered Destiny, while Activision veteran Steve Cartwright created the Les Manley series.[6] Around this time, Accolade also gained notoriety as the publisher of the Star Control series of games, created by Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford.[5] Released in 1990 and 1992 respectively, both games received numerous awards.[16] Journalists have listed Star Control among their best games of all time,[17] with Star Control II earning even more "best game" rankings through the 1990s,[18] 2000s,[19] and 2010s.[20] Because Accolade had focused their success around sports games, they accidentally placed a sticker on the box of Star Control II calling it the "Best Sports Game" of 1992.[21][22]

Console and legal challenges[edit]

A screenshot of Sega's Trademark Security System. Accolade reverse engineered the security measure, leading to a landmark legal dispute.

With the rise of a new generation of gaming consoles, Accolade sought to shift towards a market they had previously abandoned.[5] In 1990, Accolade CEO Allan Epstein expressed his opinion that the growing console market was both an opportunity and a challenge, since both the technology and audience were different from that of the computer.[23]

The company soon released several games for the Sega Genesis by reverse-engineering the console's boot-protection.[5] Sega sued Accolade for doing this without their authorization, winning an initial injunction that forced Accolade to remove all Genesis products from store shelves. Accolade, however, won on appeal, setting one of the most important precedents on reverse engineering in software law. Accolade later reached an out of court settlement with Sega that allowed Accolade to continue building their own Genesis cartridges but as an official licensee.[24] One of the conditions of the settlement was that Accolade would develop several games exclusive to Sega consoles, as a way for Sega to maintain an advantage over their rivals.[5]

As Accolade rushed to develop the exclusive games promised to Sega, the company saw the departure of co-founder Bob Whitehead, who felt their games were slipping in quality and that the game industry had become tiresome.[5] CEO Allan Epstein also left in 1991, and Alan Miller once again became the Chief Executive.[25] As the company changed leadership, Accolade published another breakthrough hit with the platform game Bubsy, created by Infocom veteran Mike Berlyn.[5] The Bubsy series of games would eventually be released on consoles for Sega, Nintendo, Atari Jaguar, and eventually PlayStation.[5] Accolade also tried to replicate its advantageous golf license in other sports, including their association football game Pelé! and American football game Mike Ditka Power Football.[5]

The lawsuit with Sega continued to have serious long-term effects for Accolade.[26] Despite succeeding at the Court of Appeals and negotiating an agreement with Sega, the lower court's injunction had interrupted Accolade's sales and development for several months in 1992. Alan Miller estimated that "the commercial damage associated with this injunction ultimately proved to be somewhere around $15 to $25 million",[24] leading the company to report major losses in 1993.[26]

New leadership[edit]

Accolade hired a new CEO in 1994, recruiting the former head of FAO Schwarz, Peter Harris, to help them attract much-needed investment.[26] Alan Miller initially stayed on as chairman and head of product development, but quit the company later in the year to work in medical software, marking the end of the founders' influence.[5][26] Harris led the company's efforts to build a new management team and secure new financing from Time Warner, before leaving to become CEO of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.[27]

Accolade president Jim Barnett became the new CEO, and largely focused their strategy on extending existing franchises.[5] Barnett earned the praise of the company's board of directors for increasing sales.[28] However, the second and third instalments of the Bubsy series were commercial disappointments, leading Accolade to ask series creator Mike Berlyn to return as the next game's producer.[29] Berlyn worked on Bubsy 3D with a new team, but the 3D technology proved to be a challenge, and Accolade insisted on releasing the game on time.[30] Upon release, the game's technical issues hurt the reputation of the Bubsy series, as well as that of Accolade as a company.[5]

Accolade asked Ford and Reiche to make a third Star Control game at the same budget as Star Control II, which they turned down to pursue other projects.[31] So the publisher licensed Reiche and Ford's copyrighted character designs to make Star Control 3 with a different development team.[32][33] The third edition was not as celebrated as the first two games, with reviewers noting the change in developer.[34][35][36] Still, the 1996 release of Star Control 3 was a modest commercial success for Accolade as a publisher, as was the release of Deadlock that same year.[37] Moreover, Test Drive 4 and Test Drive: Off Road sold well on both PC and the Sony PlayStation, with more than 850,000 and 500,000 sales respectively, making it the top-selling racing series at the time.[38] Jack Nicklaus 5 received positive reviews, but was ultimately a commercial disappointment.[39]

With Accolade experiencing mixed success, Electronic Arts decided to invest in the company in 1997 and agreed to take over their distribution.[40] Accolade planned to preview several upcoming 1998 titles at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, with entries in major series such as HardBall 6, Test Drive 5, Test Drive: Off Road 2, and Star Control 4, as well as two original titles: Redline and Big Air Snowboarding.[38] By the end of the year, Accolade released their sequels to Test Drive as scheduled, while cancelling their plans for a fourth Star Control game.[41][42] Pitbull Syndicate completed development on Big Air, which was released at the start of 1999 after a delay.[43] Development was also completed on Redline, and the driving-and-shooting game was published by Accolade in April.[44]

Acquisition and fate[edit]

Accolade was purchased by French publisher Infogrames in April 1999, as part of the European company's strategy to gain a distribution network in North America.[45] Infogrames paid $50 million to acquire Accolade's workforce of 145 employees, their sports franchises such as Test Drive and Hardball, and Accolade's licensing deals with brands such as Major League Baseball.[46] They retained CEO Jim Barnett to lead a new subsidiary company that became Infogrames North America, combining Accolade's workforce with an Infogrames office of 29 employees.[47] As a result, major franchises such as Test Drive 6 were published under the name Infogrames North America starting in 1999.[48] What followed was a series of acquisitions and consolidations, when Infogrames purchased GT Interactive and renamed it Infogrames Inc.[49] By 2000, Infogrames merged Infogrames North America into Infogrames Inc.[50][51] This marked the end of Infogrames North America as a separate company, and what was left of Accolade as an entity.

Later, Infogrames acquired the Atari brand from Hasbro Interactive in 2001, and slowly re-branded their properties under Atari SA through the decade.[52][49] Atari/Infogrames declared bankruptcy in 2013, with Tommo purchasing the Accolade trademark and several related assets.[53]

In June 2017, Hong Kong-based holding company Billionsoft announced that they had acquired the Accolade trademark, and, together with developer Black Forest Games and publisher Tommo, announced they would resurrect several Accolade franchises, starting with the Bubsy series.[54][55]

List of games[edit]

Complete list of games published and/or developed by Accolade
Game Release Developer Publisher
SunDog: Frozen Legacy[56] 1984 (Apple II) FTL Games Accolade
  • 1985 (Apple II, Atari 8-bit, C64)
  • 1986 (Amstrad CPC, MacOS, ZX Spectrum)
  • 1987 (Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, DOS, MSX)
  • 1991 (Genesis)
Accolade Accolade
Fight Night[7]
  • 1985 (Apple II)
  • 1986 (Atari 8-bit, C64)
  • 1987 (Atari XEGS)
  • 1988 (Atari 7800)
Sydney Development Corporation Accolade
Law of the West[1]
  • 1985 (Apple II, C64)
  • 1987 (NES, PC-88, PC-98)
Accolade Accolade
The Dam Busters[57] 1985 (Apple II, DOS) Sydney Development Corporation Accolade
Psi-5 Trading Company[58]
  • 1986 (C64, DOS)
  • 1987 (Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, ZX Spectrum)
Accolade Accolade
Mean 18[59]
  • 1986 (Amiga, Atari ST, DOS)
  • 1987 (Apple IIGS)
  • 1989 (Atari 7800)
Microsmiths Accolade
Killed Until Dead[60]
  • 1986 (C64)
  • 1987 (Apple II)
Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Ace of Aces[61]
  • 1986 (C64)
  • 1987 (DOS)
  • 1988 (Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit)
Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Accolade Comics[62] 1987 (Apple II, C64) Distinctive Software Accolade
The Train: Escape to Normandy[63]
  • 1987 (Apple II, C64)
  • 1988 (Amstrad CPC, DOS, ZX Spectrum)
Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
4th & Inches[64]
  • 1987 (C64, Apple II)
  • 1988 (Amiga, Apple IIGS, DOS, MacOS)
Accolade Accolade
Pinball Wizard[65]
  • 1987 (DOS)
  • 1988 (Atari ST)
ERE Informatique Accolade
  • 1987 (C64, DOS)
  • 1988 (Apple IIGS)
Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Apollo 18: Mission to the Moon[67]
  • 1987 (C64)
  • 1988 (DOS)
Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Power at Sea[63] 1988 (C64) Distinctive Software Accolade
Test Drive[8]
  • 1987 (Amiga, Atari ST, C64, DOS)
  • 1988 (Apple II)
Distinctive Software Accolade
Rack 'Em[68] 1988 (DOS) Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Serve & Volley[69] 1988 (Apple II, Apple IIGS, C64, DOS) Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Fast Break[70]
  • 1988 (C64, DOS)
  • 1989 (Amiga, Apple IIGS, MacOS)
Accolade Accolade
Grand Prix Circuit[71]
  • 1988 (C64, DOS)
  • 1989 (Amiga, Apple IIGS, MacOS)
  • 1990 (Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum)
Distinctive Software Accolade
Card Sharks[72] 1988 (C64) Accolade Accolade
  • 1988 (C64)
  • 1989 (DOS)
Accolade Electronic Arts
Bubble Ghost[74] 1988 (Amiga, Apple II, Apple IIGS, C64, DOS) ERE Informatique Accolade
Jack Nicklaus' Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf[75]
  • 1988 (C64, DOS)
  • 1989 (Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple IIGS, Atari ST)
  • 1990 (MacOS, TG-16)
Sculptured Software Accolade
Steel Thunder[76] 1988 (C64, DOS) Accolade Accolade
Hardball II[77]
  • 1989 (DOS)
  • 1990 (Amiga, MacOS)
Distinctive Software Accolade
Test Drive II: The Duel[78]
  • 1989 (Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple IIGS, C64, DOS, MacOS, ZX Spectrum)
  • 1990 (Atari ST)
  • 1992 (Genesis, SNES)
Distinctive Software Accolade
Blue Angels: Formation Flight Simulation[79]
  • 1989 (Amiga, Atari ST, DOS)
  • 1990 (C64)
Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Day of the Viper[80]
  • 1989 (Amiga, Atari ST)
  • 1990 (DOS)
Accolade Accolade
Don't Go Alone[81] 1989 (DOS) Sterling Silver Software Accolade
The Cycles: International Grand Prix Racing[82]
  • 1989 (Amiga, C64, DOS)
  • 1990 (Amstrad CPC, Mac OS, ZX Spectrum)
Distinctive Software Accolade
The Third Courier[83]
  • 1989 (DOS)
  • 1990 (Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari ST)
Manley & Associates Accolade
Bar Games[84]
  • 1989 (DOS)
  • 1990 (Amiga)
Accolade Accolade
Strike Aces[85] 1990 (Amiga, DOS) Vektor Grafix Accolade
Test Drive III: The Passion[15] 1990 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
  • 1990 (Amstrad CPC, DOS, ZX Spectrum)
  • 1991 (Amiga)
  • 1992(TG-16)
Accolade Accolade
Heat Wave[87] 1990 (Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS) Artech Digital Entertainment Accolade
Ishido: The Way of Stones[88] 1990 (Amiga, DOS, Genesis, MacOS) Publishing International Accolade
The Game of Harmony[89]
  • 1990 (Amiga, C64, DOS)
  • 1991 (GB)
The Assembly Line Accolade
Altered Destiny[90]
  • 1990 (DOS)
  • 1991 (Amiga)
Accolade Accolade
  • 1990 (DOS, MacOS)
  • 1991 (Amiga, Atari ST, C64)
Accolade Accolade
Jack Nicklaus' Unlimited Golf & Course Design[92] 1990 (Amiga, DOS) Sculptured Software Accolade
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark[93]
  • 1990 (Amiga, DOS)
  • 1991 (Atari ST, C64)
Horror Soft Accolade
Les Manley in: Search for the King[94]
  • 1990 (DOS)
  • 1991 (Amiga)
Accolade Accolade
Star Control[95]
  • 1990 (Amiga, Amstrad CPC, DOS)
  • 1991 (C64, ZX Spectrum)
Toys for Bob Accolade
The Games: Winter Challenge[96] 1991 (DOS) MindSpan Accolade
Les Manley in: Lost in L.A.[97] 1991 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
The Cardinal of the Kremlin[98] 1991 Capstone Software Accolade
Turrican[99] 1991 (GB, Genesis, TG-16) Rainbow Arts Accolade
Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerberus[100]
  • 1991 (DOS)
  • 1992 (Amiga, Atari ST)
Horror Soft Accolade
Hoverforce[101] 1991 (DOS) Astral Software Accolade
Mike Ditka Power Football[102] 1991 (DOS, Genesis) Accolade Accolade
The Games: Summer Challenge[102]
  • 1992 (DOS)
  • 1993 (Genesis)
MindSpan Accolade
Jack Nicklaus Golf & Course Design: Signature Edition[103] 1992 (DOS) Sculptured Software Accolade
  • 1992 (Amiga, DOS)
  • 2009 (Windows)
  • 2012 (MacOS)
Horror Soft Accolade
Snoopy's Game Club[105] 1992 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
Universal Soldier[106] 1992 (GB, Genesis) The Code Monkeys Accolade
Grand Prix Unlimited[107] 1992 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
Zyconix[108] 1992 (Amiga, DOS) Miracle Games Accolade
HardBall III[109]
  • 1992 (DOS)
  • 1993 (Genesis)
  • 1994 (SNES)
MindSpan Accolade
Star Control II[110]
  • 1992 (DOS)
  • 1994 (3DO)
Toys for Bob Accolade
  • 1992 (SNES)
  • 1993 (Genesis)
Accolade Accolade
Speed Racer in The Challenge of Racer X[112] 1993 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind[113] 1993 (Genesis, SNES) Accolade Accolade
Pelé![114] 1993 (Genesis) Radical Entertainment Accolade
Unnecessary Roughness[79] 1993 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
Unnecessary Roughness '95[115] 1994 (DOS, Genesis) Accolade Accolade
Ballz[116] 1994 (Genesis, SNES, 3DO) PF Magic Accolade
Battle Isle 2200[117] 1994 (DOS) Blue Byte Accolade
Bubsy II[118] 1994 (GB, Genesis, SNES) Accolade, Images Software (GB) Accolade
Cyclemania[119] 1994 (DOS) Compro Games Accolade
Barkley Shut Up and Jam![120] 1994 (Genesis, SNES) Accolade Accolade
Brett Hull Hockey '95[121]
  • 1994 (Genesis, SNES)
  • 1995 (DOS)
Radical Entertainment Accolade
HardBall IV[122] 1994 (DOS, Genesis) MindSpan Accolade
Pelé II: World Tournament Soccer[102] 1994 (Genesis) Radical Entertainment Accolade
Zero Tolerance[123] 1994 (Genesis) Technopop Accolade
Combat Cars[124] 1994 (Genesis) Accolade Accolade
Speed Racer in My Most Dangerous Adventures[125] 1994 (SNES) Radical Entertainment Accolade
HardBall 5[126]
  • 1995 (DOS, Genesis)
  • 1996 (PS1)
MindSpan Accolade
Barkley Shut Up and Jam! 2[127] 1995 (Genesis) Accolade Accolade
Unnecessary Roughness '96[128] 1995 (DOS) Accolade Accolade
Star Control 3[129] 1996 (DOS) Legend Entertainment Accolade
  • 1996 (DOS)
  • 2014 (Linux, MacOS, Windows)
Accolade Accolade (DOS), Night Dive Studios
Deadlock: Planetary Conquest[37]
  • 1996 (Windows, Windows 3.x)
  • 1997 (MacOS)
Accolade Accolade, MacSoft (MacOS)
PO'ed[131] 1996 (PS1) Any Channel Accolade
Pitball[132] 1996 (PS1) Warner Interactive Entertainment Accolade
Bubsy 3D[133] 1996 (PS1) Eidetic Accolade
Test Drive: Off-Road[134] 1997 (DOS, PS1) Elite Systems (DOS), Motivetime Ltd. Accolade
Jack Nicklaus 4[135] 1997 (Windows) Cinematronics, LLC Accolade
Jack Nicklaus 5[136] 1997 (Windows 3.x) Eclipse Entertainment Accolade
Test Drive 4[137] 1997 (PS1, Windows) Pitbull Syndicate Limited Accolade
Deadlock II: Shrine Wars[138] 1998 (Windows) Cyberlore Studios Accolade
Test Drive 5[139] 1998 (PS1, Windows) Pitbull Syndicate Limited Accolade
Test Drive: Off-Road 2 1998 (PS1, Windows) Accolade Accolade
HardBall 6[140] 1998 (Windows) MindSpan Accolade
Big Air[43] 1998 (PS1) Pitbull Syndicate Limited Accolade
Redline[44] 1999 (Windows) Beyond Games Accolade
Slave Zero[141] 1999 (Dreamcast, Windows) Infogrames North America Infogrames North America
Test Drive 6[48] 1999 (Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, PS1, Windows) Pitbull Syndicate Limited Infogrames North America
Test Drive: Off-Road 3[142] 1999 (Windows) Infogrames North America Infogrames North America


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