Acornsoft (1980 - 1986), also branded as Acornsoft Games, was the software and games department of Acorn Computers, a now defunct British computing company founded originally in 1978. During the 1980's, Acornsoft was the premier 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 were 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, the BBC Master, and the Acorn Business Computer. As well as games, they developed a wide range of edutainment products, several 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 Planetoid which emulated the style of Defender. 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, as well as 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.
In 1985, Olivetti, the Italian typewriter and electronics manufacturer, acquired a controlling stake in Acorn Computers. This event marked the end of first-party developed and published Acornsoft games as large sections of the company were sold off. 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. 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 on alternative platforms.
Acorn Computers would continue to exist throughout the 1990s, although it never returned to the popularity it achieved in the 1980s and primarily focussed on the production of set-top boxes and DSL equipment. It did however create several spin-off companies such as ARM Ltd, which today licenses a majority of CPUs used in mobiles, tablets and laptops. Acorn Computers was de-listed as a public limited company on 15 February 2000, and the name was changed to Cabot 1 Limited. It formally dissolved on 9 December 2015.