Electronic Arts original US Albumstyle (gatefold sleeve/folio) releases, 1983-1989.
Founded by Trip Hawkins, a former Apple employee.
Electronic Arts actually started out as Amazin’ Software (founded by Hawkins) in 1978 but changed the name to Electronic Arts, a name which would fit better to Hawkins vision of his new studio.
Hawkins really wanted to honour the programmers and artists like “superstars” – they should be celebrated as software composers and getting contracts known from the music industry – All this was possible because of Hawkins ability to raise capital and get investors on board before the actual development and release of the first titles in 1983.
In the first advertisement campaigns EA use slogans as Can a computer make you cry?. These ads also show images of the crew that are photographed by photographers, who mainly take pictures of rock stars.
The albumstyle format
The albumstyle design for the packaging was a very well thought out idea, with the designer’s names on the front and an elegant graphic design it really gave the games the hip appearance of the rock albums of the time. Other publishers like Activision and Mindscape ended up copying the same concept for period of time before changing to the more well known boxed format – As did EA around 1988 – you can see my EA small box collection here.
A typical design from EA in the early eighties, beautiful and really descriptive of the era.
A new way of business
In contrast to all other publishers, Electronic Arts would sell its games directly to retailers and not as usual to a distributor. For Electronic Arts this direct sale paid off, as the profit margin was higher than the one when trading over distributors. With this Electronic Arts revolutionized the way computer games were developed and sold.
The very first games – 35 years ago
Electronic Art’s first lineup of games in 1983 included Hard Hat Mack (EA’s first game), Archon: The Light and the Dark, Axis Assassin, MULE and Worms?.
-Hawkins remembered. “In hindsight, my choices of the first round of products turned out amazingly well. Of the first six games, three of them ultimately made the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame, and a fourth one charted on the bestseller lists of the day.”
The Bard’s Tale
Tales of the Unknown with the subtile The Bard’s Tale was a fantasy roleplaying game/dungeon crawler produced by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts in 1985.
It spawned two sequels, The Destiny Knight in 1986 and Thief of Fate in 1988. The name of the overall series was to be Tales of the Unknown, and the three games were to be entitled The Bard’s Tale, The Archmage’s Tale, and The Thief’s Tale. This is supported by the cover art of the original Bard’s Tale release, which proclaimed the game as “Tales of the Unknown, Volume I.” However, the immense popularity of the first game prompted Electronic Arts to re-brand the series under the more well-known name.
The Bard’s Tale was very successful, becoming the best-selling computer RPG of the 1980s and sold over 400,000 copies. It was the first non-Wizardry computer role-playing game to challenge Origin and Richard Garriot’s Ultima series.
What was originally going to be The Bard’s Tale IV became an unrelated game called Dragon Wars in 1991, at a very late point in its development process, due to rights issues after developer Interplay parted ways with publisher Electronic Arts. The game’s name and storyline were changed to disassociate it from the Bard’s Tale series.
A fourth instalment is under development following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016.
The Bard’s Tales games in the prominent albumstyle format.
The second instalment was actually released in a thin box, that could resemble an album when put on the shelf with its siblings – a few other EA titles were released in the same type of package.
Album and box format
A few of EA titles existed both as albumstyle and as a boxed version.
Below are a few from my collection.
WastelandWasteland, the grand farther of futuristic post apocalyptic RPG’s, was originally released for the Apple II and Commodore 64 as gatefold but later ported to the IBM/PC as a boxed version.
The Bards Tale
Be your own software composer
Throughout the eighties Electronic Arts gave everybody the change to be creative and do their own text, graphics, sounds, music and game creations – which with no doubt created a new big pool of talent for the future.
Below you’ll find my Electronic Arts albumstyle collection.