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The first mentions of KQ ever on the Internet/The KQ/Sierra On-Line Archives

posted by Anakin Skywalker on - last edited - Viewed by 2.2K users

Not exactly newsworthy, but I thought it was interesting for it's sentimental value. These are from the Usenet Archives--the first iteration of the "Internet" dating all the way back to around 1980.

The VERY FIRST mention of King's Quest on the internet happened on January 15th, 1985; A James. W Hoffman was asking for help:

"My children (age 8-9) managed to map out all of King's Quest but
have no idea where to begin. Any hints for them or clues
for getting around some of the bad guys or how
to get the treasures

Followed by another post on February 25th, 1985 also asking for help, by an R. Curtis Jackson:

"I have a friend who needs desperately to know how to move the
boulder in the cave -- he's figured everything else and it is
driving him and about four of his buddies crazy. He has stooped
to asking for a complete spoiler, so I told him I would see what
the Usenet could do

Two posts in November 1985, the first by a Michael Lopez, the second by a David Somner:

" Does anyone know how to :
1) move the huge boulder in the cave
2) find the mirror
3) find a cutting tool to cut the bucket off the rope in the well
4) find the shield
5) use the cheese for some purpose
6) use the note from the witches house
7) how to avoid the dwarf
8) to guess the gnomes name? What is it?
9) to make the giant fall asleep faster

"Hmmm... I tried to get this game about 2 years ago, but was told by several
people that this game wasn't being made any more... Could someone tell
me where it might be possible for me to get a copy? Even better yet, could
someone post a listing of games for the IBM-PC saying where to order them
from, and the price? I think that a lot of people could benefit from this
-Dave S."

It's now January 1986 and Michael Lopez still hasn't finished KQ1, he writes another post asking for help:

"I've finally got all of the items - the mirror, the shield, and
the chest - but, when I go to the king, I'm not sure what I'm supposed
to do. If I try to talk to him, he says to come closer, but I cannot
get any closer to him. Any suggestions would be apprieciated

More people asking for help, February 1986:

"After you have all three treasures, how do you get
the king to stop asking you to come closer?
Is there any way to find out the gnome's name?
How does the magic ring work?
What are the gold egg and gold walnut for?
-thanx, Steve Miller ihnp4!bambi!steve

A man asking for a game recommendation for his 11 year old daughter, who is a fan of KQ, in September 1986

"My daughter's 12th birthday is coming up. She has been playing
"King's Quest II" on a friend's Tandy and wants something similar
for our C64. She says the graphics for "King's Quest" are terrific.
My understanding is that "King's Quest" is not available for the C64.
Can anyone recommend an alternative "adventure" game with good

29 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Off topic, but I still laugh when I see Steam games in Value Village and other thrift stores. They're completely useless.

  • Great stuff Anakin, thank you.

    @exo said: Ken just comes across as a guy who was wowed by new technology a little too easy. he jumped on the FMV bandwagon instantly, and then the 3d platformer/action game bandwagon right after. Using a flagship series like KQ may not have been the best way to test the waters, ya know?

    You can't get on him for trying to innovate. Experimentation is something the genre sorely needs in the present day. KQ was the series they always pushed the envelope on anyway.

    @exo said: Some of the insider articles actually have some pretty good explanation on this... There is an article on why Sierra brought in Bill Davis as Creative Director to try to bring a bit of Hollywood development style and directing into game development, in a try to make something that could compete with and surpass the movie industry...

    What do you mean by "insider articles"? Where are you getting all your sales information from? I am really interested in looking at historical adventure game sales numbers.

  • I meant Sierra Interaction magazine, or the earlier Sierra Magazine/newsletter.

    Sales information is from various places magazine articles, Wikipedia has links to sales on some games. Quotes by Roberta etc in interviews on Internet and elsewhere. The KQ7 box..., etc. Some of the figures are very rough guesstimates based on known although unspecific claims in various sources, in relation to more specific data in other places. As I mentioned it's often difficult to track the truly accurate and exact sales figures for Sierra games, especially the King's Quest because Sierra was more concerned with conflating the sales of the entire series as a whole than just each Individual game. It's also difficult, because some give figures based on initial release nationally and others give totals of both national and international sales. As for Sierra they may have also counted 'rereleases' of products as well into total sales figures to inflate the values, although this is unclear.

    Take for example as mentioned the total sells of KQ1-KQ6 (perhaps including the limited sales from the remake, and maybe the various game ports as well, maybe even the sales of the 15th Anniversary collecton, and maybe even the various rereleases) according KQ7 box was 2.5 million total. Now if you divided that by six games at least, that would be about about 417,000 for each of the first six games. However according to one interview Roberta claimed that each game in the series (not counting the total failure of the 'KQ1 remake') sold about double that of the previous one, up to and including KQ8 (in the Talkspot interviews). So from that we can surmise that each game didn't sell around '417,000', but some had less, and some maybe some had more than that. If KQ6 for example had more than that, it would mean KQ7 would have had to have had even more than KQ6, and KQ8 apparently even more than KQ7... We know from Roberta that KQ8 sold about double of Grim Fandango (which I can find links to specific sales numbers for on Wikipedia, around 600,000 total national + international), but she would seemingly also be counting international sales numbers as well (because national sales numbers for GF were rather low; 94,000).

    However, we are also told that Sierra's owners weren't too happy with how many copies KQ8 sold, in relation to success of other games on the market at the time. So that means it more than likely had to have sold under a million at the most (as some of the console and action games were receiving according to known given values for many of those games).

    So when I said around 900,000 for KQ8, that is a rather rough conservative guestimate, based on those known factors (likely sold under a million, sold about double the previous KQ game, taking Grim Fandango sales into account, etc)... Although, more than likely KQ6 sold at least 300,000 (as it was likely same as or more successful than the first Gabriel Knight). I think there may be some given specific sales values for KQ5 or KQ6, and other games in the series (including KQ8), in the Interaction magazines (and elsewhere), but I'd have to go back and read through them to know for sure... If so it would allow for perhaps slightly more accurate values. But take the ones I gave as very rough indeed.

    Nowadays its not uncommon for brand new blockbusters to sell at least a couple of million or so.

  • Thanks Baggins. Good detective work.

    Somebody who worked for the company told me that LSL7 outsold Grim Fandango by at least a 7:1 margin. Interview here where Roberta talks about Phantasmagoria selling a million:

    One thing that really annoys me is that many retrospective articles on adventure games depict this narrative that adventure games were almost dead until Lucasarts revived them with Monkey Island and that LA then became the kings. It's such a falsehood. Any information I've seen, including from game designers at both companies, indicates that Sierra continued to demolish LA in sales right up to the end.

    I can't verify the information, but according to a letter on Al Lowe's website, sent in by a fan, he says the Sierra website once published thae sales figures for LSL7.

    He says it sold 300,000 nationally and over 2 million globally. So your 7:1 figure must be looking at the total world wide sales in comparison to Grim Fandango. Maybe with addition of lsl7 sales from the "Uncensored" ultimate series collections. Nationally that would make it a 3:1 sales.

    Also fascinating when Roberta says that Phantas out performed any other Sierra game by selling a million, she must be referring to national sales, rather than the global sales, in the figure.

    It would also seem to support the rough guesstimate that KQ8 must have sold under a million nationally as well. Although she admits not having access to exact sales figures herself at that time.

    Here is an article that claims that KQ5 was the first Sierra game to sell over 500,000 copies (in America or globally?)
    Again don't know how accurate the quote is, or the source (but it is mentioned in quite a few places, but no citations)...

    It claims it held 'best selling' for the next five years... This would seem to suggest it outsold King's Quest 6 (despite Roberta's claim that each game after it was more successful than the previous one)... Unless she was going by 'global sells' in are claim...?

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    @BagginsKQ said: Yep, never seen any game store that will buy back used pc games...

    Half Price Books, a large chain has a very large pc games section. Their downtown location here in Dallas has hundreds of used pc games from original big boxes to jewel cases.

    Last time I was down there I got the Zork Anthology in the original box with all the maps for $5.

    So yes, I see a crapton of KQ8 on the shelves compared to the rest of the series.


    Strangely enough though some places like Amazon are selling the game brand new again... Just the shrinkwrapped bargain jewelcase edition though...

    So it may just be a matter, that Sierra or Activision printed out millions of copies, in comparision to the print cycle of the earlier games... CD printing became cheap as hell....

    So for example Sierra only printed say hypothetically, 400,000 copies originally for KQ5. It sold more, so they had to print more. Maybe another couple hundred thousand more copies printed... That increases the total number... Supply and demand involved... But not near as many 'surplus' copies.

    Point of note they do nearly the same things with books, where they only print an initial small amount, and judging how far much its sells, have reprintings...

    With the CD age, cds were so cheap, that perhaps sierra printed an excess of a couple of million (at a few cents to a dollar per disk). But only sold up to a million or little less or so. But that means they had millions of excess copies. They didn't lose money, but were hoping to sell even more due through the mass production and surplus.

    In anycase one can see through things like Interaction and other magazines at the time, that the market was changing and how they published games changed as well... So all those factors lead to essentially 'apples and oranges' comparison in many ways as far as 'success'. It's clear Roberta was trying to judge on her own older experience on the matter.

    Also keep in mind that floppy disk versions became obselete, and broke down over time... So less likely that they will be 'sold back' even if there was a 'used market' to take advantage of. People toss out their games for whatever reason, 'scratched/broken/CD&DVD rot/downsizing', etc. Again why 'landfill archaeologists/anthropologists' tend to point out the amount of 'digital artifacts' found in landfills over the course of the end of the 20th and now into the 21st century!

    There are probably more games that end up in the garbage than get resold if anything...

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    Most of what is posted here is anecdotal evidence Baggins. Just because you run a few wiki pages on KQ history doesn't make you the definitive end all answer on every topic here. Does that hurt to hear?

    What does at make your absolutely ridiculous statement that no stores sell used pc games anymore, which was obviously fallacious? Once that failed you, you try and pin it all on being anecdotal. Sounds like your getting a bit desperate there, and I'm not sure why.

    Just because I see a lot of used copies floating around doesn't invalidate the simple fact that there is a trend. Observations are the first part of identifying patterns, and identifying patterns allows one to posit a thesis.

    My thesis is KQ8 and 7 just don't have the staying power of the original 6. Your argument that cd production runs were higher, and that in itself explains it is invalid as KQ5 & KQ6 had cd print runs as well.

    Either way, I was just pointing out my observation. I never asked you to etch it into one of your wiki pages as a bloody fact. You need to learn to think in non black and white terms sometimes.

  • Actually the early cd print runs when KQ5 and KQ6 were released (when the technology was 'bleeding edge') were more expensive to produce than the later cd print runs. That's one reason Sierra was able to get the $59 price point when other companies, especially console games were offering games for $10 less to almost half that.

    Even then, and yes this is anecdotal, you can go online and find plenty of 'used copies' of KQ6 and KQ5 cds as well... 35-40 copies of KQ5 for example... More copies than they offer used for KQ7 and KQ8 ironically enough... Frankly, that's how I've seen it in the few places I know of that sell used games... Lots and lots of copies of any of the KQ games...

    Also it isn't recommended to buy early used copies of KQ7, as they are bugged high heaven, windows 3.1 only, and certainly require alot of patching.

    Yes, its anecdotal, but there are alot of people that absolutely hate the KQ5 cd because of the poor voice acting! It may be a coincidental that in some places there are more used copies of the game because of that. There is certainly not proof that is the reason why there are alot of used copies of KQ5...

    Personally I'd think the glut of collections of many types might have to do with the large amount (technically not really that large amount when you consider that originally they sold for at least 300,000 copies) of used copies of any of the games. However, there really aren't that many used copies of the collections out there. Which may or may not point to people keeping collections rather than the individual games.

    Also, its not exactly 'fallacious' for me to say that I have never seen any traditional 'game stores' that sell pc games where I live, as there aren't any stores that sell used games... Which is likely the same reason MusicallyInspired said nearly teh same thing! In no way did I say, there are 'no examples' of such (just that I've never seen traditional 'game stores' sell used PC games), which you seem to be accusing me of...

    Also I specified and said I don't know of any 'game stores' that sell used games... You mentioned 'half-price books' which is of course not a 'used game store' but a used books and other things store...... For that matter I've never seen a Half-Priced Book stores anywhere where I live locally... I do know of their website, if its the same company... Your example may be just a regional thing...

    BTW, amusingly, and also anecdotal, the online version of Half-Priced Books, has more copies of KQ6 than they have of KQ8... That is to say, they have 3-4 copies of KQ6, and only a single copy of KQ8! They have 1-2 copies of KQ5.... 2-3 copies of KQ7.

    Speaking of the 'used games market' and misconceptions... Speaking of a day and age, where even the most popular games end up going to the used game market in large amounts, and going the resell, with a possible glut... Generally speaking because most gamers aren't 'collectors', and are only interested in playing the latest and greatest games, and then getting a little cash back to buy the next latest and greatest new release....

    On a related note, its not always the 'total amount' of used games found in a store that sells used products, but the price the used games are going for... The rarer or more popular generally cost more, than the common/mass produced or less popular games...This may all depend on the popularity of the game regionally. It also depends on the quality of the disk (is it scratched or not?), and other factors... So its all rather complicated, and very hard to follow to understand the reasoning why more copies show up in some places, and not others, why the price might be cheaper for one or the other, etc...

    Many of those KQ5s for example on Amazon sell for less than 20 cents, and not more than $14 on the high end... Most of the KQ8 sell for over 60 cents, with most not getting higher than $20... KQ6 most sell over 50 cents, with most not getting higher than $20. KQ7 is selling for over $3.50 with most not getting much over $16.

    Of course, 'pricing' depends on what local seller thinks they can get for the product, based on what they think the demand is...

  • Thanks for sharing this, it was an interesting read. I have surfed around the archives before to look for early mentions of things like Microsoft and what not. I will say that even usenet isn't the first iteration of the internet though :) It dates all the way back to 1969 when ARPANET was first switched online.

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