Origin Systems

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Origin Systems, Inc.
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
FoundedMarch 4, 1983; 41 years ago (1983-03-04) in Houston, Texas, U.S.
DefunctFebruary 2004; 20 years ago (2004-02)
FateAcquired by Electronic Arts, and dissolved
SuccessorDestination Games
HeadquartersAustin, Texas, U.S.
ProductsUltima series
Wing Commander series
Crusader series
Strike Commander
System Shock
Wings of Glory
ParentElectronic Arts (1992-2004)
Websitewww.origin.ea.com at the Wayback Machine (archived March 30, 1997)

Origin Systems, Inc. was an American video game developer based in Austin, Texas. It was founded on March 3, 1983, by Richard Garriott and his brother Robert. Origin is best known for their groundbreaking work in multiple genres of video games, such as the Ultima and Wing Commander series. The company was purchased by Electronic Arts in 1992.


Brothers Richard and Robert Garriott, their astronaut-engineer father Owen, and programmer Chuck Bueche founded Origin Systems in 1983 because of the trouble they had collecting money owed to Richard for his games released by other companies.[1][2] Origin was initially based in the Garriotts' garage in Houston, Texas.[3] The company's first game was Ultima III: Exodus; because of Ultima's established reputation and the fact that the company's games were released on computers and not consoles, Origin survived the video-game crash of 1983 which affected console game developers in North America. It published many non-Ultima games, and Richard Garriott claimed that he received the same royalty rate as other developers.[4]

By 1988, Origin had 15 developers in Austin, Texas, and another 35 employees in New Hampshire.[4] By 1989 they had 50 employees between their New Hampshire and Texas offices.[5] By 1992, Origin Systems had sold more than 1.5 million software units worldwide.[6]

In September 1992, Electronic Arts acquired the company[7][8] for $35 million in stock, despite a dispute between the two companies over EA's 1987 game Deathlord. Origin, with about $13 million in annual revenue, stated that it had considered an IPO before agreeing to the deal.[9]

By 1996, Origin had expanded to more than 300 employees, most of whom were divided among small, largely autonomous development teams.[10] In 1997, Origin released one of the earliest graphical MMORPGs, Ultima Online. After this title, Electronic Arts decided that Origin would become an online-only company after the completion of Ultima IX: Ascension in 1999. However, within a year's time, in part due to Ultima IX's poor reception,[11] EA canceled all of Origin's new development projects, including Ultima Online 2, Privateer Online, and Harry Potter Online. Richard Garriott left Origin shortly after and founded Destination Games in 2000.

In later years, Origin mainly existed to support and expand Ultima Online and to develop further online games based on the Ultima franchise such as Ultima X: Odyssey, originally to be released in 2004 but later canceled. In February 2004, the studio was disbanded by Electronic Arts. The Longbow series of simulation games was developed at Origin and published under the Jane's Combat Simulations brand of Electronic Arts. A follow-on project, Jane's A-10, was under development when the project was canceled in late 1998 and the team moved to other projects.

Notable employees[edit]

The 1980s version of the Origin Systems logo
The 1990s version of the Origin Systems logo

Origin employed many young game developers over its tenure who have since gone on to leading roles in numerous game development companies, especially in Austin.

Among its prominent employees were (alphabetically by surname):

List of games[edit]

Year Title Platform(s)
1983 Caverns of Callisto Apple II
Atari 8-bit
Ultima III: Exodus Apple II
Atari 8-bit
Commodore 64
1985 DOS
Moebius: The Orb of Celestial Harmony Apple II
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Apple II
Commodore 64
1986 AutoDuel Apple II
Ultima III: Exodus Amiga
Atari ST
Moebius: The Orb of Celestial Harmony Commodore 64
Ogre Apple II
Commodore 64
Ring Quest Apple II
Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness Apple II
Commodore 64
1987 Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Atari ST
1988 2400 A.D. Apple II
Times of Lore Apple II
Commodore 64
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Amiga
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny Apple II
1989 Knights of Legend Apple II
Commodore 64
Omega Apple II
Commodore 64
Space Rogue Apple II
Commodore 64
Tangled Tales: The Misadventures of a Wizard's Apprentice Apple II
Commodore 64
Times of Lore DOS
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny Commodore 64
Commodore 128
Windwalker Apple II
Commodore 64
1990 Bad Blood DOS
Knights of Legend DOS
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Master System
Ultima VI: The False Prophet DOS
Commodore 64
Windwalker Apple IIGS
Atari ST
Wing Commander DOS
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions DOS
Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire DOS
1991 Bad Blood Commodore 64
Times of Lore NES
Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams DOS
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi DOS
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi - Speech Accessory Pack DOS
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi - Special Operations 1 DOS
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions 2 - Crusade DOS
Ultima: Runes of Virtue Game Boy
1992 Ultima VII: Forge of Virtue DOS
Ultima VII: The Black Gate DOS
Ultima VI: The False Prophet Amiga
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss DOS
Wing Commander Amiga
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi - Special Operations 2 DOS
1993 ShadowCaster DOS
Strike Commander DOS
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny NES
Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle DOS
Ultima VII: Part Two - The Silver Seed DOS
Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds DOS
Wing Commander Academy DOS
Wing Commander: Privateer DOS
Wing Commander: Privateer - Speech Pack DOS
Ultima: Runes of Virtue II Game Boy
1994 Metal Morph SNES
Pacific Strike DOS
Pagan: Ultima VIII DOS
Pagan: Ultima VIII - Speech Pack DOS
Privateer: Righteous Fire DOS
Super Wing Commander 3DO
System Shock DOS
Ultima: Runes of Virtue II SNES
Ultima: The Black Gate SNES
Wing Commander: Armada DOS
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger DOS
1995 BioForge DOS
Crusader: No Remorse DOS
CyberMage: Darklight Awakening DOS
System Shock Mac
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger 3DO
Wings of Glory DOS
1996 Abuse DOS
Crusader: No Regret DOS
Jane's AH-64D Longbow DOS
Transland DOS
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger PlayStation
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom DOS
1997 Jane's Combat Simulations: Longbow 2 Microsoft Windows
Ultima Online Microsoft Windows
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom PlayStation
Wing Commander: Prophecy Microsoft Windows
1998 Ultima Online: The Second Age Microsoft Windows
Wing Commander: Secret Ops Microsoft Windows
1999 Ultima IX: Ascension Microsoft Windows
2000 Ultima Online: Renaissance Microsoft Windows
2001 Ultima Online: Third Dawn Microsoft Windows
2002 Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge Microsoft Windows
2003 Ultima Online: Age of Shadows Microsoft Windows
2004 Ultima Online: Samurai Empire Microsoft Windows



  1. ^ Warren Spector interviewing Richard Garriott for his University of Texas Master Class in Video Games and Digital Media [1]
  2. ^ Durkee, David (Nov–Dec 1983). "Profiles in Programming / Lord British". Softline. p. 26. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  3. ^ Mahardy, Mike (6 April 2015). "Ahead of its time: The history of Looking Glass". Polygon.
  4. ^ a b Ferrell, Keith (January 1989). "Dungeon Delving with Richard Garriott". Compute!. p. 16. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  5. ^ "35 Years Of Influence - A Look Back at Origin Systems, Creators of Ultima and More". TechRaptor. Retrieved 2020-08-07.
  6. ^ Morrison, Mike (1994). The Magic of Interactive Entertainment. Sams. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-672-30456-9. Origin Systems would sell more than 1.5 million units worldwide by 1992.
  7. ^ Varney, Allen (October 11, 2005). "The Conquest of Origin". The Escapist. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  8. ^ "ELECTRONIC ARTS ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT TO ACQUIRE ORIGIN SYSTEMS". PR Newswire. September 10, 1992. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved September 3, 2021 – via The Free Dictionary.
  9. ^ "Electronic Arts And Origin Pool Resources in "Ultimate" Acquisition". Computer Gaming World. November 1992. p. 176. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Origin". Next Generation (13). Imagine Media: 105–8. January 1996.
  11. ^ "Interview with Richard Garriott, Executive Producer, NCSoft Austin". Frictionlessinsight.com. 2002-03-17. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  12. ^ a b c d Martin, Joe (December 21, 2014). "Origin System's unmade games and rejected ideas - Pitch imperfect". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on 2020-11-12. Retrieved 2020-12-04.