"Turn on your Atari and prepare to earn your wings with a MicroProse flight simulation program. Pilot a realistic light plane across the USA or climb into a jet fighter and take part in an accurate recreation of one of history's most colorful air battles."
-- Charles Jackson1

Founded by John W. "Wild Bill" Stealey and Sid Meier in 1983, MicroProse dominated computer gaming in the 1980s before being involved in some of the highest profile computer entertainment corporate transitions in the 1990s.

In 1982, Bill Stealey, former Air Force pilot and flight instructor, and Sid Meier, an experienced programmer, attended a trade show in Las Vegas where they played a then-cutting-edge flight simulator. Stealey jokingly made a bet with Meier that if Meier could write a better one, Stealey would sell it.

The result of Meier's work became Hellcat Ace, a modest selling dogfight game for the Atari 800. The game put MicroProse on the map. Meier followed this game with Gunship 2000 and F-15 Strike Eagle, which later turned into two of MicroProse's largest franchises.

The fledgling company set up shop in a small office in Hunt Valley, Maryland -- just North of Baltimore. Having produced several hit titles for Apple and the IBM PC, they grew more adventuresome in their releases. Pioneering "realistic" flight simulators with 3-D polygon graphics and in-depth simulation games (Civilization and Pirates! to name a few), MicroProse quickly became a benchmark for a computer game company.

With the release of F-19 Stealth Fighter (based on the same "leaked" information as the Testor's model kit) and it's successor, Nighthawk: F-117A Stealth Fighter 2.0, MicroProse established a standard for military flight simulators that would only be challenged by Spectrum HoloByte's Falcon 3.0.

Feeling confident in their work with polygon-based 3-D graphics, MicroProse started to expand into other markets. They developed two video game machines for use in arcades: a Mech game and an action-oriented flight simulator. The audience for 3-D video games had yet to develop, and MicroProse ended up in tremendous debt by 1993 because of the failure of their arcade game enterprises.

Faltering economically yet still selling their older games (notably Civilization), MicroProse finally admitted defeat when a bid to purchase the company was offered by long-time rival Spectrum HoloByte. As part of the deal, Meier and Stealey were asked to sign non-compete clauses effective for two years. Spectrum HoloByte continued to market games developed in-house under both brand names.

In 1996, an unrelated company named Spectrum Holdings, Ltd. was involved in a massive embezzlement and customer fraud lawsuit. The bad PR associated with the word "spectrum" scared Spectrum HoloByte and they abandoned their original company name, formally adopting MicroProse. The masterpiece product for the new combination of talent from former companies Spectrum HoloByte and MicroProse was to be a new installment in the successful F-16 simulator series, Falcon.

Unfortunately, financial troubles hit again. MicroProse was faltering despite strong selling products related to Star Trek and other successful franchises. The company failed to recover and was purchased outright in 1998 by Hasbro -- a company who's first order of business was to release the long-awaited Falcon 4.0 under the MicroProse logo.

MicroProse is now a brand name owned wholly by Infogrames, which purchased Hasbro (along with, ironically, Atari -- bringing the flight simulator games full circle).

1 Jackson, Charles. "Flying Your Atari," Digital Antic Vol. 3, No. 7. November 1984. (Page 40)

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