Ocean Software

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Ocean Software Limited
Company typeVideo game developer
Video game publisher
PredecessorSpectrum Games
Founded1983; 41 years ago (1983)
FounderDavid Ward
Jon Woods
Defunct1998; 26 years ago (1998)
FateAcquired by and later folded into Infogrames
SuccessorInfogrames United Kingdom, now Bandai Namco Entertainment UK
Headquarters6 Central Street, Manchester, England
Key people
Paul Patterson (Sales Manager)
Gary Bracey (Software Development Manager)
Steve Blower (Art Director)
Colin Stokes (Operations Manager)
Marc Djan (Ocean France)
ParentOcean International Ltd.

Ocean Software Ltd was a British software development company that became one of the biggest European video game developers and publishers of the 1980s and 1990s.

The company was founded by David Ward and Jon Woods and was based in Manchester. Ocean developed dozens of games for a variety of systems such as the ZX Spectrum, Oric 1, Commodore 64, Dragon 32/64, MSX, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 16, Atari ST, Amiga, IBM PC, BBC Micro and video game consoles, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Master System, and Mega Drive.

History[edit]

Jon Woods and David Ward created Spectrum Games as a mail-order business in 1983 after being inspired by the success of Liverpool-based software houses Imagine Software, Bug-Byte and Software Projects.[1]: 13–14  Their initial catalogue was based around clones of arcade video games like Frogger and Missile Command[1]: 13  for various home computers including the ZX81, ZX Spectrum and VIC-20.[2]

While trying to sell their titles into high street stores it became clear that the company name was confusing to owners of machines other than the ZX Spectrum.[1]: 16  The company was renamed Ocean Software leading to some of its games being re-released with different titles so the Berzerk clone Frenzy was reissued as Robotics and Missile Attack became Armageddon.

By September 1984 the success of Ocean allowed Woods and Ward to invest £50,000 in a new software house in return for a 50% stake in the company. U.S. Gold was created by Geoff Brown, owner of Centresoft software distribution, and specialised in importing American Commodore 64 games for the UK market. U.S. Gold had no developers to port the Commodore games for the UK's most popular home computer, the ZX Spectrum, so Ocean produced the conversions of titles such as Beach Head, Raid over Moscow and Tapper through its external development team, Platinum Productions.[3]: 37 [4]

In October 1984 Ocean bought the name and branding of Imagine Software from the liquidators of the failed software house. Although originally intended to be a label exclusively for arcade conversions,[5] the Imagine logo would also be used on a number of original titles, as well as on UK releases of games licensed from Spanish developers Dinamic Software.

In 1985 Ocean and U.S. Gold collaborated again to launch a new label, The Hit Squad, for releasing compilation packages.[3]: 69  The first release featured Ocean's Daley Thompson's Decathlon, U.S. Gold's Beach Head, Jet Set Willy from Software Projects and Sabre Wulf by Ultimate Play the Game — all titles which had sold over a million copies — which led to the title They Sold A Million. The compilation went on to sell over a million copies, as did the second and third instalments in the series.

Over half of Ocean's releases for 8-bit home computers were coin-op conversions and licensed games.[5] While initially focused on British licences, such as Hunchback from Manchester's Century Electronics,[6] Liverpool's Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Olympic decathlete Daley Thompson, its attention soon shifted to film licences, with The NeverEnding Story becoming its first movie tie-in in 1985.[1]: 16 

In 1986, a deal was signed with Taito and Data East for home versions of their arcade games, such as Arkanoid, Renegade, The NewZealand Story and Operation Wolf. Operation Wolf was the first title to be converted to 16-bit platforms by Ocean France, a company created by Ocean and Marc Djan in 1986. The studio produced most of its 16-bit arcade conversions until 1991, when the company became Ocean's French marketing and sales department.[7]

Success of film-licensed games[edit]

1986 also produced titles based on the films Rambo, Short Circuit and Cobra, as well as the first licensed Batman game. But it would be its 1988 game RoboCop, adapted from Data East's arcade game based on the film RoboCop, that would go on to become the most successful movie licence in history by the end of the decade.[8]

In 1987, Ocean via Imagine had a deal with Spanish publisher Dinamic Software to release four titles, before launching its own line in the United Kingdom.[9] The following year, Ocean signed a deal with Special FX Software, a company formed by ex-Ocean employees to release titles for home computers, starting with Firefly.[10]

In 1989, The Hit Squad branding reappeared as the new budget re-release label for Ocean's 8-bit back catalogue.[1]: 72 [11] The entire series consisted of 122 titles over seven 8-bit formats. Their uniform style and numbering has led to them becoming highly collectable.[11] Meanwhile, the company was working on its next big film tie-in, which would be specifically aimed at the new graphically superior 16-bit computers, the Atari ST and Amiga.[1]: 58 

The success of RoboCop established Ocean globally,[8][1]: 52  and it would be Warner Bros. who suggested to Ocean that it produce a tie-in based on its forthcoming Batman movie.[1]: 58  The resulting game was another tremendous hit for the company and is now regarded as one of the greatest video game/film tie-ins.[12] The game was used as the basis of the Amiga 500 "Batman Pack",[1]: 58  which became one of the most successful hardware/software bundles of all time. In 1990, Ocean launched its new subsidiary, Ocean of America, led by former Data East boss Ray Musci to publish titles for the American market.[13]

Ocean was voted Best 8-bit Software House of the Year at the 1989 Golden Joystick Awards,[14] along with awards for its 8-bit and 16-bit conversions of Operation Wolf.

Merger with Infogrames (1996)[edit]

In 1996, Ocean's parent company Ocean International Ltd. announced they would be purchased by and merge with French publisher Infogrames[15] for £100 million. This was the first key purchase in Infogrames' "Expand through Acquisition" policy. After the merger, Ocean remained as a separate division of Infogrames, continuing to publish and distribute its own games, such as F-22: Air Dominance Fighter.,[16] with the UK subsidiary beginning to distribute titles from Infogrames, such as V-Rally.

In 1997, Infogrames' French publishing division Infogrames Télématique launched a European-focused online gaming website under the Ocean brand called Oceanline. The website offered up simplified online versions of a majority of Infogrames' game catalog.[17]

On 8 February 1998, Bruno Bonnell announced that Ocean Software Limited would be rebranded as Infogrames United Kingdom Limited in order to standardize its various subsidiaries under the Infogrames banner.[18][19] Ocean of America, Inc. was later renamed as Infogrames Entertainment, Inc.[20][21] Infogrames continued to use Ocean as a brand name for specific titles until the end of the year when the company quietly retired the brand in favour of their own. The last title published under the Ocean brand altogether was the North American release of GT 64: Championship Edition for the Nintendo 64.

Aftermath[edit]

Infogrames Entertainment, Inc. began to publish games under their own banner, replacing Infogrames' previous United States subsidiary I-Motion Inc. Infogrames Entertainment, Inc. was soon folded into Infogrames North America, Inc. — a renaming of Accolade — which then became Infogrames' United States division before being merged and folded into Infogrames, Inc., a renaming of GT Interactive.

The UK subsidiary continued to publish and distribute Infogrames' titles in the country, later being renamed as Atari United Kingdom Limited in 2003. In 2009, Bandai Namco Entertainment purchased Atari SA's European assets, and the remains of Ocean Software currently lie under the hands as Bandai Namco Entertainment's UK publishing and distribution division.[19]

Tape loaders[edit]

Starting with Daley Thompson's Decathlon in 1984, games on the ZX Spectrum used the Speedlock protection system, which eventually included a countdown timer showing the time left to load a game.[22]

Games[edit]

Licensed games[edit]

Highlander for the Commodore 64

Arcade conversions[edit]

Other games[edit]

Post-Infogrames titles[edit]

The last few titles from Ocean before being renamed were published and distributed under Infogrames' umbrella, and consisted mostly of titles from Infogrames themselves.

Game Developer Platform Release Date Note
I-War/Independence War Particle Systems Microsoft Windows November 1997 (PAL)
18 August 1998 (US)
PAL release published by Infogrames Multimedia. North American release published as Infogrames Entertainment.
F-22: Air Dominance Fighter Digital Image Design Microsoft Windows 1 December 1997 (PAL) North American release published as Infogrames Entertainment.
Fighters Destiny Opus Corp. Nintendo 64 26 January 1998 (US)
1 March 1998 (PAL)
PAL release published as Infogrames United Kingdom.
GT 64: Championship Edition Imagineer Nintendo 64 14 April 1998 (PAL)
31 August 1998 (US)
PAL release published as Infogrames United Kingdom. North American release published as Infogrames Entertainment.
Lucky Luke Infogrames Multimedia PlayStation 3 May 1998 (PAL)
November 1998 (US)
PAL release published by Infogrames Multimedia. North American release published as Infogrames Entertainment.
Hexplore Heliovisions Productions Microsoft Windows 1998 (PAL)
September 1998 (US)
PAL release published by Infogrames Multimedia. North American release published by I•Motion and distributed by Infogrames Entertainment.
Wetrix Zed Two Nintendo 64, Microsoft Windows Nintendo 64
12 June 1998 (US)
16 June 1998 (PAL)
Microsoft Windows
1998 (US and PAL)
PAL release published as Infogrames United Kingdom. North American release published as Infogrames Entertainment.
V-Rally: Championship Edition Velez & Dubail Game Boy July 1998 PAL-regions only. Published by Infogrames Multimedia.
Viper X-ample Developments PlayStation 15 July 1998 PAL-regions only. Published as Infogrames United Kingdom Limited.
Mission: Impossible Infogrames Nintendo 64 16 July 1998 (US)
25 September 1998 (PAL)
North American release published as Infogrames Entertainment. PAL release published as Infogrames United Kingdom.
Snow Racer 98 Power & Magic PlayStation 23 July 1998 Europe only, published by Infogrames Multimedia.
Heart of Darkness Amazing Studios PlayStation 31 July 1998 European release, published as Infogrames Multimedia. Published by Interplay Productions in North America.
F-22 Total Air War Digital Image Design Microsoft Windows Late-1998 PAL-regions only. Published as Infogrames United Kingdom Limited.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wilkins, Chris; Kean, Roger M (2013). Ocean - The History. Revival Retro Events.
  2. ^ "Spectrum Games ad". Home Computing Weekly. No. 1. March 1983. p. 47.
  3. ^ a b Wilkins, Chris; Kean, Roger M (2015). The Story Of U.S. Gold. Fusion Retro Books. p. 69. ISBN 9780993131530.
  4. ^ "Going Platinum". Crash. No. 32. Newsfield. October 1985. pp. 124–126.
  5. ^ a b Stuart Hunt. "A Life On The Ocean Wave". Retro Gamer. No. 101. pp. 53–62.
  6. ^ Martyn Carroll. "The History Of Hunchback". Retro Gamer. No. 151. p. 65.
  7. ^ Lightbody, Ian. "An interview with Marc Djan". Codetapper's Amiga Site. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  8. ^ a b Robert Mellor. "The Making Of Robocop". Retro Gamer. No. 46. pp. 62–65.
  9. ^ "Yes we have no mananas" (PDF). The Games Machine. November 1988. p. 13. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  10. ^ "NEWS" (PDF). Crash. March 1988. p. 8. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  11. ^ a b Martyn Carroll. "The Hit Squad". Retro Gamer. No. 160. pp. 38–43.
  12. ^ Robert Mellor. "The Making Of Batman The Movie". Retro Gamer. No. 41. pp. 64–67.
  13. ^ "Warming" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. 8 July 1990. p. 41. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  14. ^ "Golden Joysticks 1989". Computer and Video Games. No. 92. EMAP. June 1989. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Infogrames Entertainment S.A. History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  16. ^ "FlightSim.Com".
  17. ^ "Index Summary". www.oceanline.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 1998. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Infogrames in Milia spotlight - Variety". 9 February 1998.
  19. ^ a b "BANDAI NAMCO ENTERTAINMENT UK LTD. - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". beta.companieshouse.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  20. ^ "Infogrames Entertainment, 333 W. Santa Clara St. Suite 820, San Jose, California, United States | Company-Datas.Com -Find a Company Data". company-datas.com.
  21. ^ "Infogrames Entertainment" (PDF). mocagh.org.
  22. ^ Eddy, Richard (September 1987). "The One David". Crash. No. 44. Crash. p. 44. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  23. ^ "DALEY THOMPSON'S SUPERTEST". Your Spectrum. No. 20. November 1985. p. 57.
  24. ^ "Return of the Heroes". Your Spectrum. No. 13. April 1985. p. 36.
  25. ^ Computer conversion of TurboGrafx-16 (PC Engine) game
  26. ^ "CRASH 3 - Grid Games". www.crashonline.org.uk.

External links[edit]