Welcome to the first in a series of company profiles, covering some of the Mega Drive’s greatest gaming developers.
First up… Sensible Software.
Established in 1986, Chelmsford based Sensible Software went on to establish itself as a dominant force in the British software developer scene of the early, to mid 1990s. Following its demise at the end of the decade, the company has gone on to gain a cult following amongst gamers today.
Founded by Essex school friends Jon Hare and Chris Yates, Sensible Software was unique in its philosophy as an independent software house. A typically British sense of humor at its core, Sensible Software with its tongue-in-cheek gaming titles, and distinctive graphical style meant for a company who became synonymous amongst the video game industry.
Although the company later came to be known for its successes in the sport and action genre, Sensible Software first gained popularity with arcade-style shooters Parallax and Wizball on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Cutting its teeth on these platforms, the company also went on to develop titles for the Atari ST. Yet, it was in the era of the Amiga and the arrival of 16-bit console gaming on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo where the company truly discovered its niche.
From its beginnings as a two-man enterprise, the company expanded to a group of six by 1993. It was in this year that Sensible Software released the first installment of popular action gaming series Cannon Fodder. Taking its graphical styling and dynamics from the company’s past titles Mega Lo Mania and footballing hit Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder firmly secured Sensible Software’s reputation as a formidable developer on the 16-bit gaming scene.
Throughout its existence, the company built on its successes, releasing a sequel to Cannon Fodder in 1994, as well as six further core titles in the Sensible Soccer franchise. Spin-offs in the Sensible sport series saw the release of Sensible Golf and the somewhat unusual Sensible Train Spotting. With seven of its titles reaching number one in the console charts, as well as a string of industry awards and consistently high-scoring gaming reviews, Sensible Software enjoyed a number of successes in its time.
The arrival of the Sony Playstation in 1995 brought new difficulties to the company. As fast as its popularity rose, the company’s once popular pixel-based titles were deemed old-fashioned against the growing landscape of 32-bit gaming. Even an attempt at a 3D version of Sensible Soccer in 1998 couldn’t revive the company’s, by now, flailing popularity. Following a buy-out by games developer Codemasters in 1999, Sensible Software ceased to exist.
Fast-forwarding to 2013, the imminent release of Sensible Software 1986-1999, a publication and collaborative project between past staff members will see the history of the company documented in print-form for the first time. A touching tribute to a venture which began between two old school friends. Despite its quick demise, it’s clear Sensible Software will take much longer to be forgotten in the memories of gamers, fans and collectors alike.♦