From Rise to Ruin, the story of Acclaim
Posted on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 13:54:54 PST
Back in 1918, a group known as the Bolsheviks, lead by a man named Vladimir Lenin, stormed the capital of Russia, and in a bloody revolution, took control of the Russian Government. Lenin was a Marxist socialist who wanted to start over in Russia; but he died in 1924 and another man, Joseph Stalin took over.
Stalin ran Russia down a dark path, creating the definition of a Totalitarianism state. Purges of people, murders and censorship, his corruption never helped Russia in the long run, he put the dream that Lenin had on a slope to destruction.
Although this history lesson is probably unwanted, the reason it is brought up is because you can make this parallel to almost any rise and fall story out there. From corrupt governments, shady religious groups, to right wing political parties, these stories all start out the same way, a chance for a change. That is something Acclaim wanted to do, change video games.
Instead of a successful revolt, it became a story of ruin.
Acclaim began in 1987 as part of the original Activision team that broke away from Atari years earlier over a dispute of programmer recognition. Acclaim, hoping to top Activision, decided to create their own empire of video game franchises, and for the first few years it built up it's reserves by localizing oversea games from Japan, creating ports from the arcades, and letting external developers use there skills, like mercenaries in the army, to create video games. The most famous of these are Iguana Entertainment and LJN, both of which Acclaim would soon purchase.
By 1993, Acclaim had enough revenue to begin their dream of surpassing Activision. The success of ported games like Mortal Kombat and the NBA Jam series gave them a lot of revenue, and the company quickly grew, buying off other companies such as those mentioned above, and Sculpted Studios in 1995. They also purchased Valiant Comics, a fledging but popular comic book series with it's own universe of heroes that were slanted towards a more graphic audience. Some of these heroes, most notably Turok and Shadowman, would later on become Acclaim's greatest hits as video games. To this day, Acclaim is one of the few video game makers to attempt to branch off into uncharted territory.
By 1997, however, Acclaim was gaining waning support for its industry. Arcade games were no longer big items in the U.S, so the ports they were used to making were slowly drying up. The comic book industry as a whole suffered a near economic collapse, causing their newest venue to collapse under pressure. To make matters worse, allegations of corruption and misdealings began to cloud over the company. The biggest being the firing of over half the employers of Sculpted Studios.
In 1995, Acclaim gave Sculpted Studios a contract that stated that the employers would be given stock options and be able to stay with the new company. Two years later, Acclaim fired over half of the employers of Sculpted Studios, violating it's own written words. It even added more turmoil in the pot when Acclaim also waivered the options of severance packages; money after you are laid off that should hold you over. Essentially a buyout. If the employers took these packages, they couldn't sue Acclaim for anything. If they did not, they get the boot in the ass on the way out.
This outrage led to a class action lawsuit against Acclaim, and as of 2007, the lawsuit is still unsettled. The lawsuit wants lost stocks to be returned to those fired, as well as compensation for an abrupt firing. Lastly, the lawsuit targets Acclaim CEO and founder Greg Fishbach, as well as executives Edmond Scantcis and Gerald Agoglia as specific men who should pay for their crimes.
Fishbach was one of the original founders of Acclaim back in 1986. Originally from Activision, Fishbach decided to create his own empire in the cartridge industry, forming Acclaim with close friends and hiring young designers to begin his empire. Unfortunately, Fishbach was a poor executive, who commonly made ridiculous business decisions; such as giving away a 500-pound prize in the United Kingdom for the first five families who name their babies “Turok” in 2004.
Acclaim was a sinking ship in 1997. The company would have likely went bankrupt by 2000, but thanks to the smash hit’s “Turok” and “Shadowman”, Acclaim limped on like a wounded animal, earning enough revenue to survive longer in the now extremely competitive market of game publishing. Acclaim would actually create one of the best first person shooters ever created, “Turok 2: Seeds of Evil” in 1998. “Turok 2” would receive the highest honors for Acclaim, and is a true accomplishment in video games.
But the honeymoon would not last. After the jump to the next generation, Acclaim was plagued by poor video game sales and mediocre game titles like “Vexx” “Showdown, Legends of Wrestling” and “Dave Mirra’s BMX.” In fact, Dave Mirra even sued the company for creating “BMX XXX”, a game that the Acclaim developers changed, out of contract, to add topless models to stir up controversy, and in turn boost sales. The trick backfired, not only due to the lawsuit, but also due to the poor gameplay and lack of big chains, like Wal-Mart and Target, for selling the game.
Acclaim’s final nail in the coffin was their final Turok game, “Turok Evolution.” The game did nothing to change the series, but also never improved on anything. With cutting edge first person shooters in the market, such as “Half-Life” and “Halo”, now wowing gamers in the next generation, “Turok Evolution” could not catch up, and was a commercial failure.
Marred by numerous lawsuits, poor business decisions, and by 2004, the writing was on the wall. Acclaim closed down numerous developer studios in the U.K and filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. By September, Acclaim filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy and the deed was finally done.
With a debt of nearly $100 million dollars, Acclaim will not be remembered for “Turok” or for splitting from Activision. Instead, the legacy of Acclaim is a simple tale of rise and ruin, where absolute power corrupts absolutely, and where the dreams of those who wanted to start anew crash and burn under the weight of corruption.
After doing some extra research, I do wish to add some more to this topic.
While it is clear that Acclaim would buckle under the weight of it's corruption, the aftermath of the collapase is just another paragraph of information that should be told. Now in heavy debt, Acclaim sold it's own name and brand for $100,000 to Howard Marks, who is ironically a former CEO of Activision. Marks would creat e Acclaim Games in 2006, a company that would launch free, self advertised MMORPG system that creates free web games like "BOTS","2 Moons" and "9 Dragons". "BOTS", their first release, has already been a success online, with fully costomizeable weaponry and chasis in a "Custom Robo" vein online. A third game, "DANCE!" is also currently being produced.
Since all the products are free, multi-player online games, it is clear that Acclaim Games may have a new life under new leadership. Like Yeltsen in Russia, the change may be a bright future for the name Acclaim Games, although only time will tell, as the scars of the past will no doubt haunt the future of the new company.
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