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Type Private
Founded 1980
Headquarters Novato, California, United States
Key people Jean-Pierre Nordman, CEO
Industry Computer software
Software publishing
Revenue 38 million (2005)

Mindscape is an international software publishing company, previously part of The Learning Company. Now affiliated with EA (Electronic Arts). As of 2004, the group has offices in France, England, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Asia, Australia and Latin America. It has an annual turnover of €38 million and employs 150 people. Mindscape publishes and distributes educational and lifestyle games and software. Its most notable titles include Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Horse Racing Tycoon and Lego Island. It is soon to release two TV show game adaptations: Survivor and Wipeout: The Big Red Ball Challenge on Nintendo console Wii.


Mindscape logo from 1994.
The 1996 Mindscape logo.

Mindscape began as a software publisher in the Chicago, Illinois area. Founded by Australian-born Roger Bouey, the company published the seminal Chris Crawford game, Balance of Power in the early 1980s and was a Lucasfilm licensee, publishing the Indiana Jones computer games before they were taken in-house by Lucasfilm Games with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The company also published the innovative point-and-click adventure Deja Vu, text adventures tied to famous authors like Dick Francis and Ray Bradbury, and a controversial game from Tom Snyder Productions called Sub Mission. The latter required gamers to purchase a replacement disk if they lost the mission three times. During this era, Mindscape was famous for its Rock 'n Roll parties at Chicago's Summer Consumer Electronics Show (the trade show prior to E3), featuring classic stars like Jay and the Americans and Sam and Dave.

Toward the end of the decade, Mindscape merged with Les Crane's The Software Toolworks, a software and computer game publisher in Southern California. The company held two last Summer CES parties (one where Dudley Moore of "Arthur" fame introduced The Miracle Piano System, an electronic learning system for the piano, and another where Meatloaf nearly brought down the house) before the company became involved in another round of mergers and headquarters moved to Northern California. It started out publishing software for Heath/Zenith personal computers. Early products for The Software Toolworks included Mychess and the C/80 C compiler for CP/M. The two most popular products were the very long-lived series Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and the Chessmaster series of computer games. It is also known for its contribution in the development of the Lego Island PC game series.

In 1990 TST debuted the Miracle Piano, a critically acclaimed music-teaching product which almost sank the company after it over-ordered the piano hardware, was not able to sell through copies of the product very quickly, and was stuck with a large inventory.

In 1992, Mindscape created and released the isometric fantasy role-playing game Legend (known as The Four Crystals of Trazere in the United States) for MS-DOS, Amiga and Atari ST. Following some success worldwide, a sequel Worlds of Legend: Son of the Empire was released for MS-DOS and Amiga in 1993.

In 1993 Software Toolworks ported/developed Wing Commander to the Super-Nintendo under the Mindscape brand in conjunction with Origin Systems at a time when Software Toolworks was downsizing and struggling to survive. Sales from the game heavily exceeded expectations and the resulting revenue brought the company back from the brink (as evidenced by its share price which had fallen to $2 per share and was ultimately brought back up to $12 a share before the company was purchased).

In 1997 the internal development department was shut down. Through an undisclosed deal with Electronic Arts UK, most of the development staff, and the game they were developing (which was close to completion) - Warhammer: Dark Omen - was moved to EA's offices in Guildford, Surrey, and released in early 1998.

Below is a timeline of events occurring from 1993 to 2005:

  • 1993: Purchases wargames publisher SSI and changes name to Mindscape.
  • 1994: Sold to Pearson PLC for $503 million.
  • 1998: Sold to The Learning Company for $150 million. Mindscape also purchases PF Magic.
  • 1998: Sold to Mattel for around US$3.6 billion, causing a strong impact to Mattel's stock price and the ouster of its CEO. Mattel subsequently sells Mindscape to Gore Technology Group for just a share of the profits that Gores could obtain by selling the properties.
  • 2001: Mindscape is made a separate company in following the purchase of the international division of The Learning Company from the Gore Technology Group by Jean-Pierre Nordman.
  • 2002: Montparnasse Multimedia is purchased by Mindscape.
  • 2005: Mindscape purchases the studio Coktel Vision - owners of the brands ADI and Adiboo - from Vivendi Universal Games

As of 2006, Ubisoft continues to publish Chessmaster titles. Broderbund is the new publisher of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

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