One of the neater things I scanned in from Steve Meretzky’s collection were these two pages of sales figures of Infocom products.
First, a caveat. When I say someone from Infocom was amazing, I don’t want to make it sound like a lot of other people at infocom weren’t amazing, because they were. I’m just focusing on one or two amazing people at any given time in describing them to you. As an additional note, when I say that Infocom was amazing, I don’t want to give the impression that companies outside Infocom weren’t amazing as well. They were.
So, anyway: Mike Dornbrook at Infocom was amazing.
His interview was great, but beyond that, the pure mass of things he did and how he did them was pervasive in a bunch of other interviews as well. He invented Invisiclues, got the Zork User’s Group going (which eventually wrapped back into Infocom) and a lot of good ideas about marketing and interacting with the users came from him.
He also was a marketer, and so his interest in the hard numbers was legion. He’d keep a list of sales numbers on a chalkboard in his office, and he was always on top of what was working or not working. When he clashed with the creative side on things, it was generally to make things better, not necessarily cheaper or easier. It was Mike, for example, who had to go track down how exactly one would go about making Zorkmids.
The pages were in the folder without much context, but judging by the date, I am going to assume these were tracked for handing over to Activision, to answer questions and set expectations.
I don’t want to spend too much type analyzing them; others have done so with the same amount of first-hand knowledge I do (none) so no sense adding to anything there. What’s obvious, though, is that the games industry was a little smaller than people might think, back in the 1980s. Remember, Infocom was one of the top sellers of software, not just game software, in the home computer market.