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Gaming God’s: Peter Molyneux

For this weeks Gaming Gods we come slightly closer to home (and slightly further into the honours), with the English born designer Peter Molyneux.

Peter Molyneux (OBE) was born on May 5th 1959, in Guildford, Surrey. His career in gaming started back in 1982 by distributing and selling floppy disks which contained video games for Atari and Commodore 64. He believed that selling games on disks would improve the sales, and later decided that the games were the main selling point.

He then created ‘The Entrepreneur‘, a text-based simulation game about running a fledgling company. “In those days you could literally call a game “space blob attacks mars” and sell 50 million copies. so what did I do? I did a business simulation”, Molyneux later said. Molyneux published the game himself in 1984 by duplicating hundreds of tapes on Tandy Corporation records. After taking out advertising space in a game magazine, he prepared for the game’s success. He later stated in an interview: “I was utterly convinced that this game would sell tons. I thought ‘you know, this letter box just isn’t big enough. It’s not going to fit all the envelopes’, so I cut – and this is no joke – I cut a bigger letter box”. However, the game received only 2 orders, one of which Molyneux speculated was from his mother.

Due to the game’s failure, Molyneux retreated from game design, and started Taurus Impex limited – a company that exported baked beans to the middle east – with his business partner Les Edgar. Commodore International mistook it for TORUS, a more extablished company that produced networking software, and offered to provide Molyneux with 10 free Amiga systems to help in porting ‘his’ networking software. “It suddenly dawned on me that this guy didn’t know who we were”, Molyneux later said. “I suddenly had this crisis of conscience. I thought ‘if this guy finds out there go my free computers down the drain,’ so I just shook his hand and ran out of the office.” Taurus designed a database system for Amiga, called Acquisition – the Ultimate Database for The Amiga and after clearing up the misunderstanding with commodore, the program was released and became a moderate success.

Bullfrog Productions Logo

Using Money earned from the database program, Molyneux and Les Edgar founded Bullfrog Productions in 1987. Molyneux provided the original concept for ‘Populous‘, the first God Game for the personal computer. Released in 1989, Populous was a major success for bulldog and went on to sell over 4 million copies.

Electronic Arts, Bullfrogs publisher, acquired the studio in january 1995. Molyneux had become an electronic Arts Vice-President and consultant in 1994, after EA purchased a significant share in Bullfrog. Molyneux’s last project at Bullfrog was ‘Dungeon Keeper‘, which was released in July 1997 to high critical praise. After leaving Bullfrog in August 1997, Molyneux went on to found Lionhead Studios. The last title released with the Bullfrog logo was published in 2001, and in 2004 Bullfrog Productions was merged totally into EA UK.

Molyneux came up with the concept for Lionhead’s first game, ‘Black and White‘, and convinced his small staff to take on the task in late 1997. He paid the $6M in development costs himself. After 3 years, in 2001, the game was released.

LionHead Studios Logo

In April 2006, Lionhead Studios was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios. At E3 2006, Peter Molyneux gave several interviews in the press, in one of which he stated that “I think you’re going to see a lot more fantastic games from Lionhead because of that relationship [with Microsoft]”. On June 4th 2009, he was promoted to creative Director of Microsoft Game Studios Europe, although he continued to produce video games with Lionhead Studios.

On 7th March 2012 Molyneux announced that he had left Lionhead, and Microsoft, to begin work at a company founded buy a former Lionhead Studios CTO Tim Rance called 22 Cans.

As one of the industry’s leading and best-known figures, Molyneux has appeared on many TV shows and Video-Gaming news discussions and Documentaries. An entire episode of G4’s games retrospective series ‘Icons’ was devoted to him during it’s 3rd season. Eurogamer also filmed a 2-part interview of him during the 2006 Games Developer Conference in Brighton. He was also featured in the 4th episode of the Discovery Channel Mini-series ‘Rise of the Video game’ alongside Will Wright and Sid Meier.

Molyneux was inducted into the AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences) Hall of Fame in 2004 and was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list on December 31st of the same year. He was also awarded an Honourary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Southampton in July 2007. In March 2007 he was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the Game Developers Choice Awards and a BAFTA at the 2011 British Academy Video Game Awards.

Peter Molyneux has done quite a lot in his life. We’re sure that you will agree that he is definitely very deserving of a place on the mantle of Gaming Gods alongside our other inductees. Throughout his career he rose to high positions in EA and Microsoft, and he has always innovated the way we play games, if that isn’t enough then we don’t know what is.

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