The first game to be released by "On-Line-Systems" was Mystery House in 1980. The game was based on a concept penned by Roberta Williams, she was inspired after playing text-only adventure games and considered the possibility of blending solid game design with a on-screen representations of the game world. Roberta's husband Ken Williams, at the time a programmer for IBM, took on the task of creating a home computer game based on his wife's concepts. The formula and balance between graphic representation of the game world and the user interface at the bottom of the screen would be the prevalent form of adventure games for years to come.
Following the success and the company's relocation to Oakhurst, California in 1982, the name was changed to "Sierra On-line systems", a nod to the Sierra Nevada Hills where the new headquarters were to be located. Over the next few years, Sierra On-Line Systems released an impressive array of highly successful and influential adventure games including the legendary King's Quest Series. Other successful series and franchises developed and/or published by Sierra On-Line Systems were Gabriel Knight , Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry. Sierra also released a few stand-alone adventures, such as The Black Cauldron (based on the Disney picture) and The Wizard and the Princess. Despite releasing games of other genres as well, such as Caesar and Lords of the Realm, Sierra's name became synonymous with engaging and quirky adventure gaming.
Acquisitions of small independent developers further broadened the catalogue and range of Sierra products. Dynamix was acquired in 1990 and released critically acclaimed war simulations as well as the evergreen The Incredible Machine which has seen many sequels and reincarnations on many platforms since. Further companies bought by Sierra included Coktel Vision ( Gobliiins), Impression Games ( Caesar Series, High Seas Trader), Papyrus Design Group, SubLogic, Bright Star Technologies and Berkeley Systems ( You Don't know Jack). Sierra also looked to expand its home productivity lines; the acquisition of Green Thumb Software, Print Design and Aria Software expanded Sierra's catalogue by print machines, home gardening products and culinary books series respectively.
1995 was a year of ambition and success for Sierra. Earnings improved by almost 20 % and the software released by Sierra included highly anticipated Phantasmagoria which received mixed reviews but sold rather well and has since gained a cult status, although it is quite hard to track down original copies. Furthermore, Sierra released The Realm Online, one of the first MMORPG to be released for the home computer and is still played to this day.
Beginning in 1996, Sierra went through a series of acquisitions and changes of parent companies including CUC, Cendant Software and Havas Interactive, which is a subsidiary of Vivendi Universal.
In 2002 Sierra was renamed Sierra Entertainment. The next few years proved to be difficult and the titles they released found only minor success (Homeworld 2) if any at all. Some games, such as the rebirth of the Leisure Suit Larry Series (without it's creator Al Lowe on Board) were torn apart by critics and sold poorly. In 2008 Vivendi Games merged with Activision to became the Activision Blizzard company.
With Vivendi Games ceasing to exist, the Sierra brand became the property of Activision for possible future reanimation or sale. Activision exercised that option in August 2014, reviving the Sierra name as a small publishing label for both revived Sierra properties and newer concepts, as well. The first two games announced by this new incarnation of Sierra are a new King's Quest game and Geometry Wars 3.
The company logo displays an image of Half Dome, one of the most noticeable landmarks in Yosemite National Park, which is only miles from the company's longtime home of Oakhurst.