There were moments at the Trade Day of the Earls Court Computer Fair in June, when the fair seemed like a symbol for the month. The stand that should have been occupied by Carnell Software had been handed over to someone else. Carnell’s name plate had vanished to be replaced by that of the new occupiers. But even as I stood watching them fill the stand, their name plate was replaced by another and they were out! One exhibitor was heard to murmur, ‘It’s like the Wall Street Crash round here! The show’s not even officially open yet and software companies are going out of business like flies!’
Well it was a bit of an exaggeration, but what with Carnell collapsing at the start of the month, Salamander half way through, and the earthquake from Liverpool as Imagine crashed, one could be forgiven for thinking that the bubble had burst. But has it?
Another rumble was to be heard at the very start of June, with the news that Argus had bought out Quicksilva. The main difference being that the shareholders and management of Quicksilva seemed pretty happy by the take over, which, according to Rod Cousens, had been on and off and on again for months. Quicksilva’s take over indicates something Rod Cousens has been heard to state would happen, a slow merging of interests between the several bigger games software houses to create a much more powerful base for marketing and development. Of all the events of June, however, nothing was quite so spectacular as the demise of Imagine.
Perhaps the major problem associated with the collapse of Imagine is that like a large ocean liner going down, it may suck a lot of others with it — not in the sense that anyone else is financially dependent on Imagine, but in the sense that the loss of the powerful company may be seen by the world at large as the end of the British games software boom. If this assumption is made by the media, then it will be an inaccurate and unfair one. The computer press, of course, has a fair idea of the shenanigans that have been going on behind the scenes at Imagine House recently, but the National Newspapers (who have so loved reprinting Imagine’s outrageous stories of 17 year old programmers earning salaries of £35,000 plus a year) don’t know, and probably don’t care much. Neither will the TV companies who have flocked to Liverpool to shoot film and video of the brash, young new moguls of the software boom; nor will the gloomy pink predictions of the Financial Times make better reading, for they have never been able to distinguish between the clumsy fumblings of the American software scene with its spectacular upsets over dedicated arcade machines and home VCS games machines, and the far more thoroughbred, quirky and innovative British home computer games scene.
So there is a distinct danger that the aftermath of Imagine’s financial collapse will be read as the END — FINITO — no more games software — another skateboard fad — a bubble burst. Fortunately most of us who care about the future of the home computer and more especially the rich and exciting development possibilities of the computer game, know that this is a load of bullshit. So perhaps the world will get lucky and the media at large will totally ignore Imagine’s disaster. Or better still, perhaps they will examine it all properly and come to the conclusion that as an organisation Imagine was heading for a fall of its own making, due to mismanagement at the very top.
What is truly sad about the whole sorry business is that a lot of people employed by the software giant in Liverpool are now jobless and a lot of magazines are out of ad revenue they should have received; worse still, perhaps, for the tape duplicators who have helped create the wealth of the three directors of Imagine who seem to have pulled off one of the biggest financial coups for a long while, getting out with assets and money to leave the rest to rot.
What is certain, is that Imagine’s demise will not affect the rest of the software industry one iota. Indeed, it may well benefit some software houses. It’s a pity Imagine will miss the coming pre-Christmas season which promises to be rich in the mixture of dross and brilliance that makes British software such an exciting thing to write about.
There are more details about the Imagine crash on the News pages.
Rather than spring it on you next month when you pick up your copy of CRASH, we regret to inform you that as from next month (Issue 8) the price of CRASH must go up to 85p.
The reason for this is not that we have increased the amount of colour or improved the quality of the paper overall, but because the price of paper is going up generally. There has been heavy strike activity during this year in the American paper mills, resuiting in an acute shortage over there. American paper brokers have been rampaging through Europe buying every ream they can lay their hands on. This has caused a sharp rise in the price of paper coming from British mills and our printer is forced to pass on this increase to us.
We deeply regret the necessity for this increase, and hope that you will go along with us. At 85p, and with its high editorial content, we still feel CRASH represents good value for your money. Of course, those readers who have take out subscriptions will still continue to receive their copies at the old price of 75p. Anyone who would like to subscribe to CRASH — this is the last issue with the coupon at an effective price of 75p per copy. Better take advantage!