Boston Game Company History Graph

by BostonPostMortem Board on April 21, 2007

in Boston game news,General

This [pdf] [large png] is an improved version of the chart I displayed today at my talk at the Powering Up session at Northeastern University. Powering Up was a discussion of the game industry from the point of view of Boston, and how academics, game industry, and government can cooperate to further the growth of all three.

I was asked to help set the context, and I thought it would be interesting to do so by looking back at the history of the Boston game industry. Boston doesn’t get enough credit for the seminal nature of its contributions to the game industry — several game genres got their start here:

So in this chart, which I created with Graphviz, I’ve called out some of the Boston-area game companies that I thought deserved mention as points of interest.

The notation:

  • Pentagon: Universities — yellow is local to Boston
  • Blue ellipse: companies still in Boston
  • Gray ellipse: companies no longer in existence
  • White hexagon: companies not in Boston
  • Blue arrow: key employees followed this path. My definition of “key” is pretty vague.
  • Red arrow: spinouts (a group of employees took this path, or the original company folded and was founded out if its ashes)
  • Green dot: acquisition
  • Brown box: I thought serious games deserved a mention as it’s big around here, so this is a way of showing which companies are working on it.

Please note that this list is neither complete nor definitive. However, I believe it’s reasonably accurate. If you’re inclined to improve upon it, please feel free. The .dot file from which it was created is here. Please send me any improvements you make.

— Kent Quirk


John Cataldo April 23, 2007 at 2:00 pm

It’s a relatively minor point, and I could of course make my own version, but it is mildly curious that Mad Doc Software is completely missing, considering that it is one of the largest independent studios in the greater Boston area (possibly second in size only Turbine?)

Kent April 24, 2007 at 12:15 am

You’re absolutely correct, and I apologize. Mad Doc was on my list originally, and CMU wasn’t, so it got orphaned inadvertently.

I’ve had a few other comments; I’ll integrate and update in a couple of days.

Steve April 25, 2007 at 9:21 am

I think you should add two very successful local gaming companies to your chart

Gamesville — the first and (at the time( biggest and most successful casual games company and web site, 1996-2000. acquired by Lycos in early 2000 and alas, neglected since then, but gargantuan popularity at the time. started and operated entirely in boston and watertown

GameLogic — very prominent new company in bringing Internet and other new media channel to the USA casino and lottery industries, and all entirely legal under existing law. again entirely started and operated out of boston area

I was founder, chairman and CEO of gamesville from inception until Lycos , and founder and CEO of GameLogic from inception until Q1’2007. i am still on the board of GameLogic


Rusty April 26, 2007 at 2:31 am

Just wanted to point out one item. Davidson was bought by Sierra originally around 1994. This shortly was after the acquisition of Blizzard by Davidson. Between losing a great disk manufacturing partner and watching my friends/dev partners being absorbed by Sierra it was a bit of a bummer at the time.

Tess April 30, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Someone the other day asked me if state tax incentives created game development hubs, and I explained that historically speaking, probably all of the modern game development hubs emerged before there were any relevant tax incentives. I said that, with the exception of the SF Bay Area, the vast majority of them started with a seed studio that was the grand-daddy of all the studios to come. The Baltimore scene can be traced back to Microprose, and the Austin scene to the aptly-named Origin. Boston, however, does really seem to have been seeded by multiple companies. Infocom and Spinnaker, for example, were early contemporaries who — as far as I know — weren’t really connected.

Though, if you actually charted things out, we might find that some of the other seemingly single-seed hubs are not necessarily so. If you went back to my Baltimore example, Bethesda Softworks, Sir-Tech and Epic Megagames were not part of the Microprose diaspora. They all started two counties over, but there has been cross-pollination since then (e.g. Bethesda recently started a Hunt Valley studio).

Lance April 30, 2007 at 7:34 pm

I wanted to point out that GameFX->THQ, with THQ being labeled as not in Boston, is incorrect. Helixe in Burlington, MA is owned by THQ. People from GameFX started it and some still work there.

The fact you included my previous employer, TERC, surprised me. I hadn’t thought of them as a game company, but it makes sense, since they’ve developed some games.

Daina November 6, 2008 at 12:38 am

Oooo! This is a point mentioned. I like when everything in place while it is understandable to mere mortals.

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