In 1979, programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller, and Bob Whitehead left Atari to begin creating games independently of the company. They were dismayed with their relatively low salaries, especially given the millions their games were bringing in. Withmusic industry executive Jim Levy, they formed Activision, the first third-party company to create console video games. I recently spoke with Jim over the phone to discuss his days withActivision.
BRETT WEISS: How did you get involved with Activision?
JIM LEVY: I started it. That’s the short answer. Activision was founded by five people. The four game designers who came out of Atari and me. I was the founding chairman and CEO. That’s how I got involved. I created it.
WEISS: Who approached whom? Could you tell me a li le bit more about the genesis of the company?
LEVY: There are two parallel paths that came together. The Atari guys began to look for a way to get out of there and do game programming on their own as an independent design group. As I recall, their idea was to do that work and then license it or sell it to marketers or publishers.
WEISS: So, their original idea was not to create their own new company?
LEVY: No, it was not. First, none of them had the management chops to do that experiment. They were game designers. So, at the same me this was happening, which was the early part of 1979, I was at a company that had been failing for some me but had a li le startup division that was working on personal computer software publishing, in the very early days of personal computers. That division of the company reported to me. I was the corporate vice president. I started shopping the idea in the investment community of forming a company to do personal computer so ware. Around the second week of June of that year, I got a call from a friend of mine who was a lawyer who I had been working with for a couple of years. He had been involved with me, shopping the personal computer so ware idea. He called me up and said, “I have your design team in my office.” And that was the four guys from Atari.
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