Activision is Founded as the First Third Party Video Game Developer
Before the formation of Activision, software for video game consoles were published exclusively by makers of the systems for which the games were designed.
For example, Atari was the only publisher of games for the Atari 2600. This was particularly galling to the developers of the games, as they received no financial rewards for games that sold well, and did not receive credit for their games. This caused several programmers to resign from their jobs. Activision became the first third-party game publisher for game consoles.
The company was founded by former music industry executive Jim Levy and former Atari programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead. Atari's company policy at the time was not to credit game creators for their individual contributions; Levy took the approach of crediting and promoting game creators along with the games themselves. The steps taken for this included devoting a page to the developer in their instruction manuals and challenging players to send in a high score (usually as a photograph, but sometimes as a letter) in order to receive a patch. These draws helped the newly formed company attract experienced talent. Crane, Kaplan, Levy, Miller, and Whitehead received the Game Developers Choice "First Penguin" award in 2003, in recognition of this step.
The departure of the four programmers, whose titles made up more than half of Atari's cartridge sales at the time, caused legal action between the two companies which were not settled until 1982. As the market for game consoles started to decline, Activision branched out, producing game titles for home computers and acquiring smaller publishers.
In 1982, Activision released Pitfall!, which is considered by many to be the first platform game as well as the best selling title on the Atari 2600. Pitfall! was a huge success for the company and the developers. Due to this success, many clones of the game were introduced, including stand-up arcade games. This also launched the entire platform genre which became a major part of video games through the 1980s.
On June 13, 1986, Activision merged with struggling text adventure pioneer Infocom. Jim Levy was a big fan of Infocom's titles and wanted Infocom to remain solvent. About six months after the "InfoWedding", Bruce Davis took over as CEO of Activision. Davis was against the merger from the start and was heavy-handed in its management. Eventually in 1989, after several years of losses, Activision closed down the Infocom studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts, extending to only 11 of the 26 employees an offer to relocate to Activision's headquarters in Silicon Valley. Five of them accepted this offer.
In 1988, Activision started to get involved in other types of software besides video games, such as business applications. As a result, Activision changed its corporate name to Mediagenic in order to have a name that would globally represent all its fields of activities. (Mediagenic is often mistaken to be a company that purchased Activision but in reality it was only Activision with a different name). Despite this change, Mediagenic continued to largely use the Activision brand on its video games of the various platforms it was publishing for, notably the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System, the Atari 7800, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and Amiga.