Origin Systems

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Origin Systems, Inc.
IndustryVideo games
SuccessorDestination Games
FoundedMarch 4, 1983; 36 years ago (1983-03-04) in Houston, Texas, U.S.
FounderRichard Garriott Edit this on Wikidata
Defunct2004 (2004)
HeadquartersAustin, Texas, U.S.
Key people
ProductsUltima series
Wing Commander series
Crusader series
Strike Commander
System Shock
Wings of Glory
ParentElectronic Arts
(archived from 1997)

Origin Systems 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, Origin survived the video-game crash of 1983. 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] In September 1992, Electronic Arts acquired the company[5] 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.[6]

By 1996, Origin had expanded to more than 300 employees, most of whom were divided among small, largely autonomous development teams.[7] 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 in 1999. However, within a year's time, in part due to Ultima IX's poor reception,[8] 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]

Developed and published[edit]

Ultima (series)[edit]

Wing Commander (series)[edit]

Games with one sequel:

Games with no sequels[edit]




  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. ^ Varney, Allen (October 11, 2005). "The Conquest of Origin". The Escapist. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  6. ^ "Electronic Arts And Origin Pool Resources in "Ultimate" Acquisition". Computer Gaming World. November 1992. p. 176. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Origin". Next Generation. Imagine Media (13): 105–8. January 1996.
  8. ^ "Interview with Richard Garriott, Executive Producer, NCSoft Austin". Frictionlessinsight.com. 2002-03-17. Retrieved 2019-07-23.