Your Spectrum
Issue 7, September 1984 - Frontlines
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Following months of speculation, Liverpool- based software house, Imagine, has finally bitten the dust. Rumoured to have been struggling for quite some time and now having run out of money and excuses, the company has finally been placed into the hands of the official receiver.
The reasons for failure are not likely to be known in any detail until the dust has cleared, but poor sales and a failed contract with publisher Marshall Cavendish were two major contributors to Imagine's downfall. Other contracts which Imagine was rumoured to be negotiating - with Apple and IBM - failed to materialise in time to save the company.
The deal with Marshall Cavendish was to supply software for INPUT - a partwork publication dedicated to the art of writing your own games. Accepting the advance of a reported £200,000, Imagine reputedly invested the same amount again in equipment to handle the job - which explains why, when Marshall Cavendish rejected the games, Imagine was left out of pocket to the tune of £400,000.
In a drastic move calculated to lift Imagine's financial situation out of the mire, the company attempted to auction off its entire range of best-selling (sic) titles. K-Tel, Prism and Virgin Software were reported to be interested parties; eventually, however, a deal was signed with distributor, Beau-Jolly. This landed Imagine in court with rival distributor Zeta Services which claimed to hold a contract giving
it sole rights to the titles. Imagine made a counter- claim that Zeta had breached the contract by refusing to take delivery of existing stocks by the agreed date.
Meanwhile, back at Imagine's HQ, Technical Director Bruce Everiss (who resigned from the company, along with Information Manager Tim Best just a week before liquidation) informed us that he was in disagreement with the three other directors. Interviewed after the crash, Everiss commented that financial mis- management was a factor in the failure of the company; Financial Director Ian Hetherington felt moved to say little in reply to Everiss' 'off the record' claims, but blamed the collapse on the overheads incurred by the Marshall Cavendish contract. Mention was also made of piracy of Imagine products; Hetherington claims that 300,000-400,000 pirated tapes were uncovered not long ago.
(Could this be the first official mention of the oft-rumoured 'find' of bootlegs in a London warehouse back in January? Ed)
As the smoke clears amid predictable acrimony, perhaps the biggest question of all is what will happen to the so-called Mega-games - the project on which the company was devoting much of its time and resources. Due for release sometime in August at a price of £40 each, the games are said to offer graphics mid- way between ordinary micro graphics and the type of laser-disk realism seen in the amusement arcades. Modestly, Bruce Everiss was heard
to say that "The Mega- games will make all other products obsolete overnight ..." - a comment that seems to have back-fired somewhat.
The rights to the Mega-games already in progress when Imagine went into liquidation are now the property of the official receiver, representing a company asset which can be used to pay the estimated £¾ million owed to creditors. The intellectual rights to the concept, however, remain the property of the copyright holders.
And this is where the plot thickens, for the 18- strong programming team of Imagine will apparently be joining former directors Ian Hetherington, Mark Butler and David Lawson, in the formation of a new company. Hetherington confirmed that the rights to the existing Mega- games are now the property of the receiver, but hinted that the new (and as yet unnamed) company would be creating its own Mega- games. Which might go some way to explaining the rumours that are flying around that Imagine's ex- programming team is presently holed up in a secret location putting the finishing touches to Bandersnatch. The job is reported to be 80 per cent complete.
Bruce Everiss, too, is setting up his own, separate, company but wouldn't at press time get down to the nitty- gritty of telling us what it'll be doing; under existing law, there's nothing to prevent former directors of a liquidated company acting as directors of a new company.
Watch this space for news of the emergent companies, when and if they appear.

Taking the bit firmly between its teeth, Sinclair Research is going on the offensive with an ad campaign - complete with TV coverage - worth over £4 million. The campaign is based on claims that the 41.5K of usable memory you get on the Spectrum is greater than computers costing up to three times as much. Another major incentive for purchasers will be the give-away 'goodies'.
Free with each 48K Spectrum will come the 'Spectrum Six Pack' - a software bundle worth £56.70 which features Chequered Flag, Scrabble, Survival, Chess, Make-a-Chip and Horace Goes Skiing. You'll also be able to buy an 'Expansion System' package for £99.95 giving you proud possession of a ZX Microdrive, the Interface 1
unit and a wallet of four Microdrive cartridges; these contain Tasman II, Masterfile, 3D Ant Attack, Games Designer, and a number of Microdrive demonstration and utility programs.
For anyone at all sceptical of the Spectrum's future in the micro market, Sinclair Research has announced that it's doubling production. This, the company claims, will allow production to ramp up to over 200,000 units per month by the end of the year.
Announced too is the retail availability of both the QL and the flat-screen TV from September. Managing Director Nigel Searle says that "While production volumes for both are building up fast, we anticipate that demand will inevitably outstrip supply." Which presumably means that supplies in the shops may well be limited.
Parker, which some time ago announced plans for ROM software for the Speccy and Interface 2, has finally come up with some product. In fact, Parker is the first independent software house to produce software for this format, and Sinclair Research has given the company plenty of support.
The games themselves (announced in Frontlines, issue 4) are of a very high quality; indeed, all offerings include superb graphics and sound. However, one stands out above the others ... Gyruss. It's a space arcade/action game that has its players piloting their spaceship through the solar system from Neptune towards Earth.
The promotion that's planned is impressive. A machine called a Comparitor will contain copies of all the games - by simple selection of a number, potential buyers will be able to play what- ever they like right there and then.
The games themselves will become generally available by October - at a price still to be decided but which is rumoured to be around the £19.95 mark.

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