was started by the UK's then sole telephone company, British Telecom
(BT) in 1984. Their attempt was to plunge into the then profitable
software market by releasing their own games very cheaply (the Silver
Range). First games though were budget in every sense of the word,
with Booty and Cylu being nothing short of awful. All the early games
showed the then British Telecom logo at this time.
In 1985, they took the lead from Mastertronic and relaunched their
label. They used the same colour scheme as Mastertronic for identifying
machine formats, and the Firebird logo shaped like a red phoenix
took centre stage (see above). Their games from this period were
much better, while still selling at £1.99, such as Harvey
Headbanger. Also Firebird sold some full price £9.99 games
(the Gold Range), one of which was Elite... this got a Gold Medal
in the very first issue of Zzap! 64. Revs, the driving game, was
another classic, even though you really needed an analogue joystick
to get the best from it.
1986 saw the first sub-label launched - Rainbird. They would sell
games slightly more expensive (£14.99) and one of the first
of these was Starglider. While great on the ST, the '64 version
was a little slow to say the least. Meanwhile on the budget side,
there was Thrust. One classic C64 game, and interestingly review
copies had a bugged loader which messed up Rob Hubbard's music.
This explains the lowish music rating in mag reviews, although Zzap!
later admitted they would have given it 93% if they would have heard
the 'proper' version. Also at this time Rainbird acquired the rights
to release adventures by Level 9, and then also Magenetic Scrolls.
'The Pawn' when launched was an instant classic... despite really
needing a C128!
1987 saw Firebird's first move into arcade conversions, with Bubble
Bobble and Flying Shark. Also at this time came a lot of budget
games with Rob Hubbard digi tunes, namely Arcade Classics and BMX
Kidz with Ricochet following in 1988. Also in 1987, Firebird gained
the rights to re-release Activision titles, such as River Raid,
Pitfall II, Decathlon and Zenji. For gamers, the chance to play
these old titles at just £1.99 was just too irresistible.
And of course, there was Zolyx. A variant on Qix it might have been,
but so playable and so frustrating. It's really addictive!
1988 - a year of change for Firebird. Firebird itself was to be
the home of all £9.99 releases, with budget games via its
new sub label Silverbird (easy to work out the name) and Rainbird
still carrying on as normal. Firebird's games then included Black
Lamp, Samaurai Warrior (often mistitled Usagi Yojimbo - that was
only the name of the hero in the game) and Savage with cool music
by Jeroen Tel. Silverbird in this and next year scored some surprise
hits, including Scorpius, with graphics by a certain John and Steve
Rowlands, Trojan Warrior, Scuba Kidz and European 5-A-Side. Firebird
had managed to acquire the programming house Graftgold after they
had had legal battles with Hewson, with Morpheus released on Rainbird,
then Magnetron and Intensity on Firebird. However, poor sales would
mean that Graftgold would leave soon after and become freelancers.
BT closed Firebird down in 1990 and sold the rights to all the
labels to Microprose for an undisclosed sum.