Founded by Michael Wildshill and Terry Ward in 1996, the company purchased American Software Studios in 2001, and the ACI Interactive name was retained.
American Software Studios era (1996-2001) Edit
The company was founded by Glass Ball staff Michael Wildshill and Terry Ward. During the time, the two recruited staff, including Geo G., and the studio officialy opened its doors in 1996 in Los Angeles, California.
Wildshill served as the head and tech lead, and Ward served as the assistant during that time. In 1999, the two created a prototype for a new video game and pitched it to the publishers during E3 1999. Hasbro Interactive agreed to publish the game, and the deal was soon finalized. The company continued to increase with 15 members. The new game was a My Little Pony video game during the G1 era, and would feature new graphics. However in 2000, Hasbro Interactive's assets were sold to Infogrames, and the partnership with ACI dissolved, resulting in the game's cancellation.
In 1999, the company released its first game, called Color with Geo, a children's activity game that allows coloring and more features. In 2001, the company announced the acquisition of American Software Studios, and it was completed shortly afterwards, retaining the name ACI Interactive.
ACI Interactive era (2001-present) Edit
After the acquisition, the company began working on Geo Fighting Fantasy, a fighting, multiplayer-only video game inspired by the Final Fantasy franchise. The game also became the company's first project to have international appeal, enabling ACI to partner with several video game publishers, such as Acclaim Entertainment, Interplay, and Vivendi. However, Acclaim Entertainment faced bankruptcy at that time, and decided to turn the game into a single-player adventure video game with the goal of sending it to the market as soon as possible. The game was released in 2001, but ACI had to lay off staff after the release. A sequel, called Geo Fighting Fantasy 2 was also in development. The sequel was to have a more elaborate story mode, 35 different fighting arenas, 30 playable characters with 15 unlockable ones, and a improved power system. However, those features were then axed when ACI got into legal troubles with the publisher, resulting in the game's cancellation. Another game, Geo Crusade, was successfully released with help from publisher Interplay Entertainment. However, its sequel was shifted to "Balls". ACI then attempted to acquire another studio, Avalanche Software, but the agreement between the two fell apart and brought both companies into financial difficulties.
Another game being worked on by ACI at that time was The Land Before Time: Great Valley Adventures!. Set during the franchise of the Land Before Time film series, the game was published by Vivendi. The team took inspiration from all of the films that were released. However, ACI was downsizing due to financial difficulties, and the number of employees dropped from 90 to 75, and the entire team moved away from the main ACI floor to prevent it from being affected by low morale, and to allow it to focus on the game's development. The game enjoyed a 20-month development cycle, which was longer than usual typical games. A PlayStation 2 version of the game was also in development, but was unfortunately cancelled as the former head of Vivendi's publishing division, Michael Pole, ordered its cancellation to "make his mark". Universal intervened and kept the game's Xbox, PC, and Gamecube versions. Great Valley Adventures received generally positive reviews upon its launch on August 20, 2004, with the reviews regarding it as one of the best licensed Land Before Time games ever made. It's gameplay elements, such as the puzzle-solving, the activities, and the other features also recieved positive feedback. Depsite recieving positive reviews, it was not a commercial success for ACI.
After the release of Great Valley Adventures, ACI again encountered financial difficulties after not having received a significant royalty payment from Vivendi. It sold part of its motion capture and hand-drawn and CGI animation department to "Balls". However, the game helped set ACI's reputation as a studio capable of making good, well-licensed game titles. With the help of a new engine created by ACI, called Geo Engine, ACI signed an agreement with Majesco Entertainment for a new title set within the W.I.T.C.H. universe owned by Disney Italia, on October 14, 2005. However, midway through the game's development, Majesco underwent restructuring because of financial difficulties, shifted its focus, and dropped the game. Eventually, 2K Games stood up and obtained the publishing rights. 2K extended the game's development cycle and asked ACI to develop a multiplayer mode for the game. W.I.T.C.H. Adventures was released on November 10, 2006. It fared worse than the team expected, but the commercial performance was satisfactory, selling more than 1 million copies worldwide.
After working on two licensed games, the team intended to develop its own games. After the release of W.I.T.C.H. Adventures, the company signed a two-project contract with Vivendi. The contract consisted of another LBT game called The Land Before Time: More Adventures in the Great Valley. Vivendi originally named it Land Before Time 2, but ACI disagreed claiming the name would confuse people with the direct-to-video title The Great Valley Adventure, and that it would raise expectations among gamers and fans of the franchise that the game might not be able to deliver. Vivendi's subsidary Sierra Entertainment was set to publish the game. In 2008, after the merger between Activision and Vivendi, the new company began streamlining Vivendi and put the game up for sale. Ubisoft eventually acquired the publishing rights and the game was released in 2009.