Sensible Software was founded by two wannabe rock stars, Jon Hare and Chris Yate. Having had limited success under numerous band incarnations such as Hamsterfish, Dark Globe and Touchstone, rock's loss was the games industry's gain as Sensible Software would go on to make some of the most iconic and memorable games of the eighties and nineties.
Between them the duo covered the core skills needed to mould a fledgling games company. Jon, a talented artist, and Chris, a skilled programmer, decided to pursue their interest in videogames, and found employment with LT Software.
During a successful but short period at LT Software Jon and Chris were credited with producing two of the ZX Spectrums most impressive games Twister and Sordov the Sorcerer.
Using the skills gained from their nine-month stay at LT, the pair broke away and formed their own company. Sensible Software was born.
The two-man team immediately set to work on Parallax for the Commodore 64, which won them a £1000 deal with Ocean Publishing, and became Sensible’s first success.
Sensible Software’s first critically acclaimed game came in the infancy of the company; Wizball was proclaimed to be “Game of the Decade” (1980’s) by Zzap64 magazine.
The young software house based in Chelmsford, Essex, U.K. was establishing a reputation for high quality software and Wizball was just the tip of the iceberg.
Following on from the success of Wizball Sensible Software released Shoot-Em Up Construction Kit (S.E.U.C.K.), which allowed players with no knowledge of game creation the chance to generate their own content within hours.
Well-known game music composer Martin Galway joined Hare and Yate at Sensible, and that summer, the three-man company released Microprose Soccer, which was hailed as the sport’s finest simulation to date. The sport theme continued with International 3D Tennis, one of their final projects for the C64.
Jon and Chris now found themselves leading a profitable, reputable company. It was a meteoric rise since joining LT Software as college-dropouts, but their success hadn’t peaked yet.
Early in 1990 Martin Galway left to join fledgling software house Origin in the United States, but his departure didn’t slow the growth of Sensible Software. Brimming with confidence and with an established reputation the company migrated from the 8-bit era to the new, more powerful Amiga and Atari ST. The increase in processing power also brought about a change in direction for Sensible Software with two of their most original products; Mega-Lo-Mania and Wizkid. The former was a well-received simulation of a God’s struggle for dominance, and the latter was a platformer which continued the narrative of their earlier hit, Wizball.
Sensible Soccer marked the return to sports for the company and was released to a roar of critical acclaim. It was an instant classic, and spent almost the entire year on top of the games chart.
With numerous updates and ports of Sensible Soccer selling in huge numbers, the company next produced the social commentary Cannon Fodder, which was greeted with critical acclaim, but was also accompanied by controversy centred on the poppy-adorned game box. Detractors also claimed the game glorified warfare, when in truth it was a satire of those that engaged in such conflict. Despite such negative coverage, the game was a success; but it would be the company's last.
End of an Era
Sensible’s new IP’s beyond this point, such as the the disappointing Sensible Golf, never got anywhere near the heights of their golden period between 1987 and 1995 as the company expanded in numbers and grappled with 3D for the first time. They also explored new concepts such as the game Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll (originally a joke game idea called "Drugged out Hippy" invented by Chris and Jon during their rock days.) This game was signed up by Warner Interactive for a 7 figure sum in 1995 but support for the project was pulled due to the game’s controversial themes, coding problems and a change of control when Warner was sold to GT Software.
At this point, Sensible’s owners were looking for a way to bow out gracefully, and their wish was granted when veteran UK publisher Codemasters bought them out in 1999. Jon Hare has maintained a close working relationship with Codemasters ever since, designing many games for them including updates of Sensible Soccer for the PlayStation, Cannon Fodder for the Gameboy Color, and a recently updated Sensible World of Soccer for Xbox Live Arcade.