Acornsoft (also branded as Acornsoft Games) was the software manufacturing department of Acorn Computers, a now defunct British computing company founded originally in 1978. During the 1980’s, Acornsoft was the major publisher of video games for both the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron, both of which were produced by its parent company. It also had several high-profile publishing deals with other developers to publish ports of popular ZX Spectrum games for Acorn platforms. Sinclair Research, which created the ZX Spectrum and its founder Sir Clive Sinclair, was the main rival of Acorn Computers throughout the early 1980’s computer boom. Later in the decade, Acornsoft also produced software for the Acorn Archimedes. As well as games, they developed a wide range of edutainment products, innovative computing languages, as well as merchandise for businesses and corporate utilities.
Acornsoft was most well known for their gameplay clones of many popular arcade games of the time, produced without the consent of the original game’s developer, but altered so as to avoid copyright infringement. These included Hopper, which is a clone of Sega’s Frogger; Snapper which cloned the gameplay of Namco’s classic Pac-Man, and Arcadians which emulated the style of Galaxian. However, Acornsoft also branched out and produced or published several original and groundbreaking games, such as the now-famous Elite, one of the first intergalactic space-faring games, and Revs, a Formula 3 simulator, which was one of the first first-person racing games ever developed.
Acornsoft also competed with the likes of Infocom in the text adventure market, publishing a number of interactive fiction games by authors such as Peter Killworth, such as Philosopher’s Quest and Countdown to Doom, which continue to receive acclaim from interactive fiction enthusiasts.
Whilst Acorn Computers continued to release professional office software products under the Acornsoft brand for the BBC Master series of computers, in 1986 they sold the Acornsoft name and back catalogue of games to Superior Software. Acorn Computers itself had collapsed the previous year and remnants of the business had been purchased by Olivetti. Superior Software re-released many Acornsoft games, which continued to use the original Acornsoft branding. Superior Software did not purchase the rights to Acornsoft’s text adventure games, which were instead sold to Topologika and were similarly later re-released in updated formats and alternative platforms.