Remembering The House That Civilization Built

I don't tend to truly miss many video game studios. Businesses come and go, their developers move on, make new stuff, the world keeps spinning.

But on a weekly basis I find myself missing Microprose, who gave us Civilization. And X-Com. And Master of Orion. And Railroad Tycoon. And Master of Magic. And Falcon 4.0. And...OK, you get the idea. A lot of great stuff!

Microprose was founded in 1982 by two industry legends, Sid Meier and Bill Stealey. Combining Meier's love of history with Stealey's (at the time a serving Major in the United States Air Force) passion for military simulation, Microprose quickly made a name for itself with a series of successful sims like 1985's F-15 Strike Eagle and the original Silent Service submarine simulator.

The company took a turn in 1987 with the release of Sid Meier's Pirates! Not only was this kind of historical adventuring a departure from military simulation, but it marked the first time Meier - who only put his name on the box to ensure the company's hardcore fans knew it was an entirely different kind of game - used his name as an act of branding, one which would (and still does) come to be known as a seal of quality or sorts.

In 1998 Microprose was sold to Hasbro, and by 1999 the majority of the company's staff began to find themselves unemployed as the once-mighty developer and publisher found itself being wound down. At least it went out with a bang, though: two of the last games to find success under the Microprose label were Mechwarrior 3 and Falcon 4.0, the latter of which has the greatest instruction manual ever printed.

By 2001 Microprose, now owned by Atari, ceased to exist in all but name, and the last game pushed out the door bearing the studio's name would be 2002's Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4.

A sad and ignominious end to such a mighty company that may have been, sold off and slowly shut down like a body dying of disease, but that's business. Nothing lasts forever. If you need cheering up after the fact, take a look at this list of games the company released as either developer or publisher and realise just how many of the greats - and if you're a PC gamer your personal favourites - were put out with the name Microprose on the front of the box.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.


    Best developer ever. Airbourne Ranger (the game in pic)- still one of my faves. Haha I dont miss crappy cardboard keyboard overlays though

    Hehe long time Microprose addict here, I had MOST of their developed games. 4-5 years back I actually bought a 5.25 floppy drive off ebay specifically to play Red Storm Rising (my sister found me the PC version in vinnies but didn't note the format)

    Microprose games are great for playing on something like a netbook with dosbox, must set that up again now that I think of it

    That manual remains awe inspiring.

    Not just PC gamers! I played a lot of their games on C64 and Amiga back in the day. Favourites were Civilization, Gunship, M1 Tank Platoon, Microprose Soccer and Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix. Brilliant.

    Civ, Railroad Tycoon, Xcom, Pirates & more were all fantastic games that I loved playing as a kid & still enjoy sequels & reboots of some today!

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