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MicroGraphicImage was founded by former employees of a company called Games by Apollo. Games by Apollo had been among the companies that had overproduced games for the Atari 2600, creating a glut of cheap games. In the pre-Christmas market of 1983, the company became insolvent. At the time, they had a lot of games in the works for a number of platforms, including the Atari 400/800. Three former programmers from Games by Apollo would go on to form MicroGraphicImage: Tim Martin, Robert Barber, and Cash Foley. Martin had been one of the lead developers on the Atari 2600 platform and Foley had been on the Atari 800.
When Games by Apollo went broke, Martin and another former employee, Robert Barber, developed a game entitled Halloween based on the infamous movie. The 'Halloween' game was innovative for the time, both in content and usage of the Halloween theme music. The contract funded the founding of MicroGraphicImage. The game was released by Wizard Video Games during the video game crash of 1983-84, resulting in poor sales.
Martin and Barber's expertise was with the Atari 2600. Furthermore, they were dis-satisfied with the kind of money being made through contract game development. Their strategy was to utilize the contract programming to leverage the funding of a software publishing company. They brought Cash Foley in as technical specialist with Atari and Apple computer programming. The trio went to the January 1983 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It was there they developed a relationship with Gary Carlson, one of the founding brothers of Brøderbund. In early 1983, MicroGraphicImage developed games under contract for Brøderbund, Parker Brothers, and CBS Electronics while developing Spelunker for themselves.
Martin and Barber had been developing the Spelunker game design for quite a while, however, it was too ambitious for the Atari 2600. Martin, Barber and Foley co-developed the game. Martin was responsible for "game logic", Foley developed the graphic engine and Game Level Editor, and Barber was the graphic designer and Level Editor.
By 1983, many computer games had a "name" attached to them, a trend started by Activision, which prominently featured the names of their programmers. As Spelunker was Martin's original idea and he programmed the game logic, a strategic decision was made to put only Martin's name out front. The team were convinced this was the first of many games, and eventually they would all have their turn in the limelight The short lifespan of the company curtailed this foreseen eventuality.
In 1984, they turned publication over to Brøderbund and made the Commodore 64 version of the game, little different from the original.
End of operations
Although MicroGraphicImage was able to maintain a steady stream of contract work, the overhead of financial business focus going into publishing, they weren't able to make ends meet. The game recession that started in the winter of 82 got worse, it was very difficult to get distributors to take games, especially from small publishers. Eventually, MicroGraphicImage ran out of money and closed its doors. The company did not go bankrupt; it simply ceased operations. Martin continued working with Brøderbund on a business level and was able recover all debt through NES and Coin-op versions of Spelunker.
Martin and Foley continued to work together including at an Amiga Publishing company by the name of Inovatronics. Eventually, Martin was a founder of the Internet provider, Internet America. As of 2007, Foley was working at Perot Systems.
- Foley, Cash (1982-07-23). "The notso Spectacular Rise and Fall of MicroGraphicImage". Archived from the original on 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
- Stilphen, Scott (1982-07-23). "DP Interviews ... Ed Salvo". Digital Press. Retrieved 2015-07-16.