Argonaut games was a famed British Developer founded by teenage entrepreneur Jez San.
The company operated forover twenty years making over sixty games before liquidating in 2004. The company is best known as the programmer collaborating with Nintendo EAD
on the Super Nintendo
ground breaking Star Fox
Argonaut games was founded by Jez San in 1982 which he created as way to showcase his skills to software firms to get consulting work. Two years later Argonaut changed their focus to games and in 1984 releases their first title a shoot 'em up called Skyline Attack
for the Commodore 64
. The game was notable for its' inclusion of (what was then) realistic looking skylines.
In 1986 Argonaut had it's first major hit in Starglider
, which allowed the company to expand dramatically from a very small basically one man shop and up its' production. StarGlider was notable for being one of the earliest 3d games in existence.
Nintendo, StarFox and The Super FX Chip
By the late 1980's San's work on 3d polygons was attracting attention from major publishers. Argonaut signed a deal with Nintendo to help them develop what would become the Super FX chip for the Super Nintendo after demoing a prototype inspired by their previous Starglider games.
According to Jez San the deal pitch took place like this
I was in a room with Miyamoto-san and Izushi-san and some other Nintendo people like Tony Harman and I showed them a prototype of StarFox that we had running, initially on the NES – codenamed “NesGlider”, and then a few weeks later on a prototype SNES. I told them that this is as good as it’s going to get unless they let us design some hardware to make the SNES better at 3D. Amazingly, even though I had never done any hardware before, they said YES, and gave me a million bucks to make it happen.
Argonaut sent many of its' own staff to Japan to work Nintendo directly, including famed designer Dylan Cuthbert
In 1992 Their first major 3d title for Nintendo was another space shooter called X
for the Game Boy
. X was unique at the time for being a handheld 3d game and was considered groundbreaking. They also made King Arthur's World
, one of the few games on the SNES to make use of the SNES mouse peripheral
In 1993 Argonaut and Nintendo EAD released Star Fox
for the SNES launching their brand new Super FX chip, which ushered in a new era of gaming and popularized 3d polygon gaming. Star Fox was revolutuonary at the time since the Super FX chip allowed it to render 3d polygons in real time. Star Fox became a mega hit, selling over 4 million copies.
Argonaut would assist Nintendo in using the Super FX chip for other titles including Stunt Race FX
and the cancelled Star Fox 2
After Star Fox, Argonaut went on to develop chips for Phillips ( Cd I
2), Hasbro and Apple for three systems that never launched. They also developed their own chip called the ARC or Argonaut Rise Core.
Argonaut had their first post Nintendo hit with the 1997 release of Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
a platformer for the Sony Playstation
Buoyed by their commercial success with Star Fox Argonaut began rapid expansion . In 1999 the company ahd grown large enough that they felt the need to split it into a chip division , Argonaut technologies, and a software division, Argonaut Software. Argonaut went public on London exchanges in the year 2000. During this period Argonaut acquired several other developers including Morpheme
, LTstudios, Particle Systems
and Just Add Monsters
(now known as Ninja Theory
In the early 2000's the company had a few critical duds, including the critically panned Catwoman the Game
and the highly anticipated Malice
, and coping with higher development costs for the Playstation 2
era of consoles ran into cashflow issues. The company laid off all of it's staff between October 22nd to October 25th of 2004 in a desperate attempt to stave off bankruptcy. On November 1st 2004 Argonaut closed.
Immediately post bankruptcy Jez San was able to reacquire Morpheme and Just Add Monsters, to allow their respective studio heads time to save their studios and go independent. Both ultimately bought out his interest , Morpheme sold itself to Eidos
and Just Add Monsters was able to go independent.
Argonaut Games arguably created the 3d era in gaming and had a hand in the rise of mobile phone gaming as well.