|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Headquarters||Irvine, California, U.S.A. (Global HQ)|
|Revenue||$99 million (£67 million) (1993)|
Number of employees
Virgin Group (1987-1991)
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Virgin Interactive Entertainment was a British video game publisher owned by the Virgin Group. It was formed as Virgin Games Ltd. in 1983. Initially built around a small development team called the Gang of Five, the company grew significantly after purchasing budget label Mastertronic in 1987.
Virgin helped launch the careers of renowned developers who went on to start other studios that created successful franchises like Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer series) and Shiny Entertainment (Earthworm Jim). As Virgin's video game division grew into a multimedia powerhouse, it crossed over to other industries from toys to film to education. To highlight its focus beyond video games and on multimedia, the publisher was renamed Virgin Interactive Entertainment in 1993.
As a leader in multimedia, major entertainment producers were interested in acquiring Virgin's U.S. branch, which was one of the five largest U.S.-based video game companies. Ownership changed hands several times, with entertainment companies like Blockbuster and Viacom looking to utilize VIE's edge in multimedia and CD-ROM software development to help expand their business.
Virgin's entertainment work includes collaborations with Disney and other major studios on motion picture-based games such as The Lion King, Aladdin, RoboCop and The Terminator, in addition to being the publisher of popular titles from other companies like Capcom's Resident Evil and Street Fighter and id Software's Doom II in the European market.
VIE ceased to exist in mid-2003 after being acquired by French publisher Titus Software, itself was acquired by Interplay Entertainment in 2005. The VIE library and intellectual properties are currently owned by Interplay Entertainment as a result of its acquisition of Titus. A close affiliate and successor, Virgin Play, folded in 2009.
Nick Alexander started Virgin Games in 1982 after leaving Thorn EMI. It was headquartered in Portobello Road, London. The firm initially relied on submissions by freelancer developers, but set up its own in-house development team in 1984, known as the Gang of Five. Early successes included Sorcery and Dan Dare.
Virgin Interactive's history spans three decades in which it was at the forefront of the home console revolution that spread video games to the masses. It evolved with an ever-changing industry into a sophisticated interactive entertainment maker with the aid of its close ties with Hollywood and the entertainment media. Virgin pioneered an era marked by increasingly sophisticated games that combined popular franchises with computer animations and laser discs. These changes turned the video game industry from a small operation into a multimillion dollar business and made video games part of popular culture.
Throughout its history, Virgin developed and published games for every major platform, including PC, Mac, home consoles and handhelds such as Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, C64, Sega Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear, Nintendo Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Saturn, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast.
Virgin advanced the careers of many developers, including Westwood Studios (who developed Command & Conquer series and the PC port of Resident Evil) and Northwest Synergistic Software. Earthworm Jim creator David Perry got his start at Virgin before founding Shiny Entertainment. Also among Virgin Interactive alumni are famed video game composer Tommy Tallarico, artist Doug TenNapel, designer David Bishop, animator Bill Kroyer, animator/artists Andy Luckey and Mike Dietz and programmer Andy Astor.
1987 marked a turning point for Virgin after its acquisition of struggling distributor Mastertronic. Mastertronic had opened its North American headquarters in Irvine, California just a year earlier to build on its success at home, though growth exhausted its resources after expanding in Europe and acquiring Australian publisher Melbourne House. Branson stepped in and offered to buy 45 percent of Mastertronic stake, in exchange Mastertronic joined the Virgin Group. The subsequent merger created Virgin Mastertronic Ltd. in 1988 with Alper as its president which enabled Virgin to expand its business reach overseas. It was owned by Virgin Communications, Virgin Group's media subsidiary. Mastertronic had been the distributor of Sega Master System in the United Kingdom and is credited with introducing Sega to the European market, where they expanded rapidly. The Mastertonic acquisition was Virgin's ‘real’ entry in the gaming business, whereas before they were a small developer mostly for personal computers, they now had Sega's business which enabled them to compete with Nintendo in the growing home console market. To gain a foothold in its newly established market, Sega of Japan acquired Virgin Mastertronic In 1991 and changed its name to Sega Europe Ltd. Virgin retained a small publishing unit, which was renamed Virgin Interactive Entertainment in 1993.
The nineties were a period of entertainment technology convergence, with cable companies, movie studios, telecommunications firms and computer and video game makers merging with other industries to create new forms of entertainment. Hasbro, the world's largest toy company, who had previously licensed some of its properties to Virgin, bought 15 percent—later increased to 16.2 percent—stake in VIE In August 1993. Hasbro wanted to create titles based on its brands, which include Transformers, G.I. Joe and Monopoly. The deal cut off competitors like Mattel and Fisher-Price who were interested in a similar partnership.
As more media companies became interested in interactive entertainment, Blockbuster Entertainment, then the world's largest video-store chain, acquired 20 percent of Virgin Interactive Entertainment in January 1994. It acquired 75 percent of VIE's stock later in 1994 and purchased the remaining shares held by Hasbro in an effort to expand beyond its video store base. The partnership ended a year later when Blockbuster sold its stake to Spelling Entertainment, a subsidiary of Viacom. Viacom is the owner of Paramount Studios and MTV, which made Virgin Interactive part of one of the world's largest entertainment companies.
Blockbuster and Viacom invested heavily in the production of CD-based interactive multimedia—video games featuring sophisticated motion-picture video, stereo sound and computer animation. VIE's headquarters were expanded to include 17 production studios where expensive SGI “graphics supercomputers” were used to build increasingly complicated games.
One result of this investment was the creation of a new technology called “Digicel,” which could scan hand drawn animation cells into digital software, originally for an unpublished game called "Dynoblaze," which was managed by Andy Luckey, Paul Schmiedeke and Bill Kroyer in 1993. Key to developing the process were Dr. Stephen Clarke-Willson, David Perry, designer David Bishop, animator Bill Kroyer, animation producer Andy Luckey, technical director Paul Schmiedeke, animator Mike Dietz and programmer Andy Astor. The technology was first released to the general public in Disney's Aladdin for the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis and subsequently on such projects as The Lion King video game.
In late 1993 Virgin formed a new company, Virgin Sound And Vision, to focus exclusively on CD-based entertainment. In January 1994 Blockbuster Entertainment, then the world's largest video-store chain, acquired 20 percent of Virgin Interactive Entertainment in an effort to expand beyond its video store base. The partnership ended a year later when Blockbuster sold its stake to Spelling, a subsidiary of Viacom, Viacom had planned to sell Spelling and buy Virgin Interactive out of Spelling before the sale. While it abandoned the Spelling sale some time ago, the collapse in the games market appears to have killed off any interest in buying Virgin.
The worldwide operations were acquired by Interplay Entertainment in a majority stake buyout backed by Mark Dyne, who became its Chief Executive Officer in 1998. Tim Chaney, the former Managing Director was named president. The U.S. operations were divested to Electronic Arts as part of its $122.5 million (£75 million) acquisition of Westwood Studios that same year.
VIE's equity shares were sold to Interplay (43.9%) and Titus (50.1%) in February and October 1999, respectively. Titus took control of all assets and IPs while Interplay got distribution rights of Virgin's titles in the Americas. VIE ceased to exist as an independent entity after all assets were transferred to Titus Software in 2003.
In May 2002, the Spanish division of Virgin Interactive, known as Virgin Interactive España, was purchased by Tim Chaney along with former Spanish president and founder Paco Encinas. The branch was then separated from the main Virgin Interactive company, already part of Titus Software, and kept its own identity as a Virgin brand. Renamed Virgin Play in October 2002, Chaney left in 2008, it then entered liquidation in 2009.
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- Falcon Patrol II (1984)
- Sorcery (1984)
- Strangeloop (1985)
- Doriath (1985)
- Gates of Dawn (1985)
- Hunter Patrol (1985)
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- Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future (1986)
- Shogun (1986)
- Action Force (1987)
- Action Force II (1988)
- Risk: The World Conquest Game, The Computer Edition of (1989)
- Silkworm (1989)
- Overlord (1990)
- Spot: The Video Game (1990)
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- Archer McLean's Pool (1992)
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- European Club Soccer (1992)
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- Global Gladiators (1992)
- The Terminator (1992)
- M.C. Kids (1992)
- Monopoly Deluxe (1992)
- Jeep Jamboree: Off Road Adventure (1992)
- Dino Dini's Goal (1993)
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
- Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos (1993)
- Reach for the Skies (1993)
- RoboCop Versus The Terminator (1991)
- The 7th Guest (1993)
- Cool Spot (1993)
- Chi Chi's Pro Challenge Golf (1993)
- Super Slam Dunk (1993)
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- Super Slap Shot (1993)
- Disney's Aladdin (1993)
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- Cannon Fodder (1993)
- Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck (1993)
- Superman: The Man of Steel (Europe only) (1993)
- Cannon Fodder 2 (1994)
- Doom II: Hell on Earth (1994) (European PC version only)
- Earthworm Jim (Europe only) (1994)
- Jammit (America only) (1994)
- Super Dany (Europe only) (1994)
- The 11th Hour (1995)
- Creature Shock (1995)
- Earthworm Jim 2 (Europe only) (1995)
- Lone Soldier (Japan only) (1996)
- The Mask (Japan only) (1996)
- Resident Evil (Europe and PC versions only) (1996)
- Ghen War (Europe/Japan) (1996)
- NHL Powerplay '96 (1996)
- Street Fighter Alpha 2 (Europe only) (1996)
- Time Commando (Japan only) (1996)
- Black Dawn (1997)
- Agile Warrior: F-111X (1997)
- Blam!: Machinehead (Japan only) (1997)
- CrimeWave (Japan only) (1997)
- Marvel Super Heroes (Europe only) (1997)
- Mega Man X3 (Europe only) (1997)
- NHL Powerplay '98 (1997)
- Noddy: the Magic of Toytown (America only) (1997)
- Bloody Roar (Europe only) (1998)
- Magic & Mayhem (Europe only) (1998)
- R-Types (Japan only) (1998)
- Rival Schools: United By Fate (Europe only) (1998)
- Resident Evil 2 (Europe only) (1998)
- Street Fighter Collection 2 (1998)
- Bloody Roar 2 (Europe only) (1999)
- Capcom Generations (Europe only) (1999)
- Dino Crisis (Europe only) (1999)
- Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter (Europe only) (1999)
- Dino Crisis 2 (Europe only) (2000)
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (Europe only) (2000)
- Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (Europe only) (2000)
- Bloody Roar III (Europe only) (2001)
- Codename: Outbreak (2001)
- Devil May Cry (Europe only) (2001)
- European Super League (Europe only) (2001)
- MDK 2: Armageddon (European PS2 version) (2001)
- The Mystery of the Druids (2001)
- Original War (2001)
- Project Justice: Rival Schools 2 (Europe only) (2001)
- Resident Evil: Gaiden (Europe only) (2001)
- Screamer 4x4 (2001)
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