CARNELL SOFTWARE, publisher of the highly-original adventures Volcanic Dungeon and Black Crystal, are on the brink of liquidation. Director Stuart Galloway has said he is unable to pay debts and has appointed a Reading firm as receiver in the event of liquidation.
The company still hopes to continue and has called a meeting of creditors to discuss the situation. Clive Digby-Jones, managing director of Websters, which distributes the games, says part of the problem was the long delay in the release of the latest game, Wrath of Magra, which was scheduled originally for early in the year. "We stepped in to help," he says, "by buying old stock in return for exclusive distribution rights, to permit concentration on Magra."
Wrath of Magra is now in its finished form, Carnell apparently lacks money to transfer the game to the stores. Digby-Jones hopes the game can still be marketed and will save Carnell from extinction.
"We like the people and the way they do things and would like to continue distributing the products," he says. If Carnell manages to stave off creditors until Magra is available it will be only a temporary solution, as there will be little capital remaining for new projects.
ACUTE financial problems have compelled software house Imagine to sell its catalogue of best-selling titles and delay the launch of its new Megagames. The company has laid off staff and vacated its luxurious five-storey offices in the centre of Liverpool.
Imagine ran into difficulty earlier this year when publisher Marshall Cavendish rejected the games provided by the company for the new part-work Input and demanded repayment of a £200,000 advance. The crisis was accentuated by a slump in the software market and theft of stock from the Imagine warehouses.
An attempt to raise cash by lowering software prices met with objections from dealers and in a last-ditch effort Imagine decided to sell the rights to its games to London-based Beau-Jolly, sister company to Nouveau Records.
Imagine will continue to receive royalties from the titles, though it is rumoured as being as low as 10 percent of the retail price.
Beau-Jolly is launching compilation packages for the games for the Spectrum and Commodore computers. The value packs are in sets of four or six games, costing £16.49 and £21.40 respectively. In the meantime the de-luxe range of Megagames from Imagine, priced at around £20 each, were not due for release until July.
The company has moved to cramped accommodation at Teghebarn House, round the corner from its previous premises, but hopes to expand again when the Megagames are released and when, presumably, cashflow problems are overcome.
CAMPUTERS, the company which produced the Lynx microcomputer, has gone into liquidation. A meeting of creditors appointed Hacker Young and Partners and Cork Gully as joint liquidators.
Total company assets have been put at £94,250 but £877,000 is owed to the parent company Camputers plc and a number of trade creditors.
Company representatives have been approached by several potential buyers who have made a serious approach to the liquidators to acquire the Cambridge-based company. None has yet made a firm offer.
Dragon Data is another company which is in difficulty for the third time in its two-year life-span.
Touche Ross, the receiver for Dragon Data, is confident that the company will rise from the ashes. Several companies have shown interest in taking the flailing range of micros. They include Tandy, which produces a colour computer in the United States which has similar specifications to the Dragon 32.
One of the reasons given for the company's difficulties is failure to meet demand. That seems a strange excuse, since there are believed to be thousands of computers awaiting shipment with a total estimated value of £6 million.
TOPO, the American personal robot, will no longer be exported to Britain. Androbot, which makes the robot, has also announced the shelving of plans to export two other robots. The company is said to have experienced difficulty in raising production to the required levels for overseas distribution.
U.K. distributor Prism is negotiating for the rights to manufacture the robots under licence but no decision has yet been taken. Prism hopes Androbot will not be halting exports of Topo permanently; a spokesman for the company says:
"We hope to be able to accept deliveries from January, or to be in a position to start our own manufacture."
IT SEEMS that production of the QL is now up and running with delivery dates to customers fulfilled, despite initial hiccups. Another version of the machine to be shipped to the ever-patient public no longer has the external EPROM hanging from the back - it has been incorporated in the main casing.
The bugs present in the first machines have, according to Sinclair spokesman Bill Nichols, been eliminated. They included the tendency of the software to crash and the slow loading time of the Microdrives.
The final version of the QL, with the internal EPROM replaced by ROMs, was due to appear towards the end of July.
Nichols would not indicate the exact number of QLs shipped to date but said Sinclair Research is on schedule to supply the first 13,000 customers by the promised August delivery dates.
The completed manuals have also been delivered, though the ones received at the Sinclair User offices were far from being error-free.
With QL problems now, it is hoped, a thing of the past, the stage is set for Sir Clive to attempt to topple Acorn from its enviable position in schools and colleges and, in the States, to recapture the market lost by the withdrawal of Timex earlier this year.
THE PRIZE for the first person to complete Jet Set Willy, the smash hit arcade game from Software Protects, was won by two Londoners, Ross Holman and Cameron Else. The competition involved discovering the number of objects in Willy's mansion and both winners collected all 83 items and returned successfully to the Master Bedroom.
The winners are to receive a case of champagne and a helicopter ride over London. The helicopter is to be piloted by Tommy Barton, a director of Software Projects.
Another competition winner is Michael Wood of Exeter, who won a QL for surviving for an hour at the final level of Psytron, by Beyond Software. Psytron is reviewed elsewhere in this issue. A spokesman for Beyond was not clear as to which model QL would be awarded as the prize but said: "We have a QL, in the office ... definitely ... somewhere."
RUSHING IN where angels fear to tread, software house PSS has joined forces with other companies in a desperate attempt to persuade computer publishers to act as policemen in the increasingly murky battleground of software piracy. The group, which includes CRL, Anirog, Silversoft, Interceptor, Microdeal and Visions, has threatened "withdrawal of all advertising support from any journal carrying advertisements for tape and disc copiers".
PSS director Gary Mays acknowledges that such products are not illegal but nevertheless feels they should not be advertised. "I recognise there is a need for making back-up copies in some instances but unfortunately we are running a business and if piracy continues to increase we will be unable to survive. The end result will be that the consumer gets nothing."
John Ross, group advertisement manager of Sinclair User, comments: "It is a decision of the individual software companies as to whether they advertise in any magazine they choose. Sinclair User will continue to offer a complete service to its readers and in doing so will publish any advertisements which are not offensive or illegal."
MOSAIC PUBLISHING has launched a new range of products which it calls bookware. Each of the packages contains a novel or a short story by a famous science fiction author, together with adventure games which have been written around the themes of the books.
First to receive the treatment is The Stainless Steel Rat, by Harry Harrison. The package is unusual, as Harrison co-wrote the software with programmer Sean O'Connell.
The game has three sections in which you are tested on your eligibility to join the Special Corps, try to escape in your spaceship and explore the planet Freibur. The book and cassette package cost £14.95.
Also included in the range are The Width of the World, from a short story by Ian Watson; Inrock, a game featuring the fantasy world of the same name from a book by Desmond Morris; and The Saga of Eric the Viking, which has been culled from the children's book about the 'land where the sun goes at night' by Monty Python star Terry Jones.
More information about all bookware titles can be obtained from John Wiley and Sons Ltd, Sussex.
ADVENTURE International, a company headed by Scott Adams, founder of adventure gaming on microcomputers, has launched a new series of games based on Marvel Comics super-heroes.
The first game to be released features the Hulk in an adventure called Questprobe. Marvel has produced a comic of the same name which will include the storyline of the game.
Similarly packaged adventures will be released soon including comic book characters such as Doctor Strange, Nightmare and Ant-man. They will be available on the 48K Spectrum as well as the BBC micro, Atari, Commodore and Tandy machines.
QUICKSILVA, one of the first companies to enter the Sinclair software market, has been acquired by the Argus Press group, the publishing and communications arm of British Electric Traction. Argus says there will be no changes in the marketing strategy or staffing of Quicksilva or its American counterpart, Quicksilva Inc. Jim Connell, chief executive of Argus magazines division, says:
"Quicksilva has established itself rapidly as one of the leading software companies in the U.K. and this investment furthers our expansion in the software market. I am delighted that Rod Cousens will be continuing in his role of managing director of the company to mastermind the expansion."
The financial expansion of Quicksilva will mean that the company will be able to accelerate its activities and diversify into new technological areas. The company plans to invest heavily to produce the next generation of computer games and applications.
Cousens is pleased with the way the company is heading. He says: "I look forward to working with a new board of directors committed to the continued growth of Quicksilva. It marks a new era for the company. We are confident, enthusiastic and excited at the prospect of future developments which will enable us to maintain our position of prominence in the market."
NEWTECH Publishing has launched a competition to find puzzles and computer games for a new book, The Times Book of Computer Puzzles and Games. Entries must be in by July 31 and must either be games or puzzles written in Basic for the Spectrum or Commodore 64.
The two top prizewinners will each receive an Epson HX-20 portable computer. The five runners-up will be awarded Maplin Electronics modems.
The authors of each game published in the book will receive a W H Smith gift voucher, worth £10.
More information can be obtained from The Times Book of Computer Puzzles and Games, Surrey.
SINCLAIR RESEARCH still led the British computer market with 43 percent of sales in the first quarter of 1984. A survey, conducted by Audit of Great Britain, put total sales in that period at 215,000.
Commodore Business Machines has a 28 percent share of the U.K. market but leads in world sales, almost double those of Sinclair.
Another survey, by Cunnington and Associates, indicates that there were 2.2 million computers in British homes. Forty four percent of children aged between 12 and 15, and 14 percent of the population, now live in a home with a computer in it.