I'm Andrew. I write about the past and future of tech, music, media, culture, art, and activism. This is my blog.

Microsoft Buys Activision - What does it mean for digital preservation?

Posted: October 13, 2023

Microsoft purchased activision/blizzard. This is the way things go. Activision spent decades gobbling up other game studios, becoming a massive juggernaut unable to support it’s own bulk, and then an even larger creature moved in and took control. It feels like something out of the Kaiju Preservation Society, except that these incomprehensible monsters are financial fictions. The consolidation of the control of media production in to an ever shrinking number of hands is one of the biggest problems of our age (and the subject of my recent book Community Media: a Handbook for Revolutions in DIY TV), so I lament this purchase, but … Well, Activision spent years doing the same thing with small studios, and it’s one of those small studios that I want to talk about now. See, it’s time to talk about Infocom.


Chances are good, if you’re on my blog and you’re reading this post you already know who Infocom is, but in case you don’t: Infocom was a publisher of computer games, founded in the late 70s by some MIT grads. They published text based puzzle games like Zork, and A Mind Forever Voyaging, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For a certain crop of Computer Users, Infocom represented the absolute peak of what was possible, their games were more than just Text Adventures, they were Interactive Fiction.

Then they tried to make a natural language processing based Database program in the early 80s, as their lunch was being eaten by graphical adventure games, and eventually they came to be owned by Activision.

So what?

So now Microsoft owns the Infocom library (or, at least, all of it except The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, probably.) and it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything with that.

Prominent member of the interactive fiction community (and the author of one of my favorite games of all time) Andrew Plotkin is making a plea to Microsoft: Give the infocom archives to a non-profit, and let that non-profit release them to the world.

If you know any current decision making human beings at Microsoft, maybe send them Plotkin’s plea.

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