Impressions Games


Impressions Software was a UK software development house founded in 1989 by David Lester. Its focus was on strategy and business games, including sports-team management simulations. It also experimented with edutainment (Project USA) and casual software (Casino Deluxe). With a stable of partners and freelancers, including Edward Grabowski and Simon Bradbury, the company grew into a stable, successful studio.
After initial success in the European market, in 1992 Impressions opened a US division in Farmington, Connecticut, which eventually moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The division first focused on repackaging current UK Impressions releases with minor localization, but within two years grew into a full-fledged development house. In its first years in the US, Impressions would release between five and eight titles in a year, though by 1995 they had slowed down to a roughly two-titles-per-year schedule. During these early years Impressions also partnered with Connecticut-based Omnitrend Software, and released two of its titles, Rules of Engagement 2 and Breach 3.

Impressions attempted to carve new ground in strategy games, with a special emphasis placed on: business simulations as in Air Bucks, Detroit, and Powerhouse; empire-builders such as Discovery: In the Steps of Columbus; and the proto-real-time-strategy games of the Micro Miniatures series (including Conquest of Japan and Rorke's Drift). Impressions' biggest successes were in the Lords of the Realm and Caesar series, both of which came from collaboration between Lester and programmer/designer Simon Bradbury.

The early games Impressions produced were uniquely tuned to the European games market, which seemed willing to accept a higher degree of complexity and lower degree of usability than in America. Impressions' first success in the US came when its Air Bucks title was taken off the market in its original UK edition, significantly upgraded with new features and a revised interface, and re-released as Air Bucks v1.2.

Impressions was bought by Sierra On-Line in 1995, who released Caesar II to critical and commercial success. After many years running the company, Lester passed creative leadership of the company to Chris Beatrice, who oversaw most of its remaining titles. During the development of Lords of the Realm 3, a management shake-up ended with the departure of Beatrice and much of the company's leadership and senior staff, to form a new studio called Tilted Mill Software. David Lester went on to form Firefly Studios with Simon Bradbury and Eric Ouellette, making it the second of the major Impressions offshoots. (Lester eventually moved on from Firefly as well, and became a UK magazine publisher.) Edward Grabowski, who was crucial to the birth of Impressions, went on to do racing management simulations for Microprose, and later released games to the web through his own company, Edward Grabowski Communications, Ltd.

Mike Ryder, former president of Sierra Entertainment, forced a change in management in October 2001, during development of Lords of the Realm III. Rod Nakamoto was installed as the new director. Lords III became Impressions's final game, and was released to mediocre reviews in March 2004. The studio was shut down in April 2004 when Vivendi Universal closed most of their game development studios.

Many members of the studio moved on to form Tilted Mill Entertainment. Former notable employees of Impressions include Chris Beatrice and Peter Haffenreffer, co-founders of Tilted Mill Entertainment.