The Story Of U.S. Gold is another book in series of retro gaming books that for the last few years from Fusion Retro Books, covering many classic home computers and English software house’s to name but a few. The Story of U.S.Gold is the second collaboration with those who ran the company and those who worked for the company all brilliantly mashed up with antidotes and memoirs. So after the success of their previous book The history of Ocean Software, this was extremely fitting as the follow-up book to cover the history of British software companies because of the direct connections between both Ocean Software and U.S.Gold accompanied with lots of information possible unheard of previously. The book for those of you who grew up in the 80’s I am sure you’ll be aware of U.S. Gold, U.S. Gold was founded in Birmingham by Geoff and Anne Brown in 1984 as the publishing division of their software distribution company Centresoft. Its primary purpose was to republish popular American computer games at a much cheaper price than you would expect to pay at full retail cost at the time in Europe, U.S.Gold set out to change all of that and boy did they do just that.
Starting from the inception detailing Geoff Brown failed attempts to become a 1960’s rock star to becoming one of the most powerful software entities to deal with in the 1980’s seen an angle in the software marketplace to introduce what was back then the impossible, rather than setting up expensive software team and having to pay programmers and musicians and artist a regular wage, this brain wave to import software fully developed elsewhere in the world and bring it to the masses in Europe at a great price was a master stroke which is a fascinating read within the book, it delivers the mechanics of operation, the bluffing and the lengths U.S.Gold took in order to be a success during which dominated the computer software industry in the United Kingdom and most of Europe, Fusion Retro book has left no stone upturned here with this book. If you’re a fan of this type of thing, then this is pretty much a done deal for you. The book uses a great timeline of passage to the history of the company like never before and dare I say it, found it to be more evolutionary than “The History of Ocean Software” book, it’s a lot more polished and I feel better presented this time around which is only a good thing.
The book covers the dealings with the likes of Datasoft, a software house I personally hold dear to myself, Access, who brought the world the wonderful military arcade action game “Beach-Head” as seen above here. How Geoff Brown convinced them to supply the software on tap and taking care of the logistics for these American companies which had no idea what the software industry in Europe was all about. But not only did U.S.Gold supply the United Kingdom, they were also on the look out for games closer to home too, one which would be a huge hit on all 8-bit computer, the game, of course, I speak of is the wonderful Archer Mclean game “Dropzone” from his company at the time “Arena Graphics” a defender clone with a difference, super slick scrolling and lightning fast gameplay found on the likes of the Atari 8-bit computer really showed the level of quality U.S.Gold were striving for, bring brand new and original games to the market quickly increased the notice of computer magazines like Zap64 and many others.
As mentioned above I spoke of great Antidotes well this book doesn’t call short, there is one, in particular, I wouldn’t write about fully here, but one that covers a classic Atari 8-bit shooter “Galactic Chase” to say the antic of which this game made it into the shops was a superb read for me, it’s thing like this that rather than being cryptic in the writing brings a smile to your face as you progress through the book. The U.S.Gold book also delivers the downside of the company, the responsibilities and pressure from shareholders and the likes so it is a great balance within the book making it more enjoyable. Done in the same fashion of layouts and design as the History of Ocean book, I did find some text alignment issues again, this time, around but nothing to really criticise the book over and really is the only thing I found, but it’s so minor it won’t ruin the experience of the book even to the trained eye. You get original documents never seen before from Geoff Brown personal archive, the history between them and Ocean Software which I was amazed to read about the people who made it all work and some great flashbacks of vintage magazine advertisements also included, in fact there is so much in here that you will probably need to read the over a few times to take it all in.
So my final thoughts on the U.S.Gold book, well upon reading the books Kickstarter campaign I was immediately struck with interest with my past within home computer video games back then as a kid was only ever interested in the games themselves, but now as an adult this piece of the jigsaw has been finally pieced into place and now have the full complete story of the company behind many of these great game releases and Fusion Retro Books has delivered on their promise, I can highly recommend this book as both a part of a software companies history and one for those who lived through this fascinating era. U.S.Gold defined the pinnacle of software marketing and revolutionised the home computer compilation concept on to make millions of pounds which well documented within this book. So what are you waiting for? Hop over to the Fusion retro Bookstore and grab a copy now at a brand new reduced price of only £19.99 you won’t regret this.
Creator of forth coming Coin-Op:Arcade Guide and creator of the Atari Gamer Magazine and the Atari ST Gamer Magazines. Retro gaming expert & fact finder.