First games though were budget in every sense, with Booty and Cylu being nothing short of awful. All the early games showed the British Telecom logo at this time but in 1985, they took the lead from Mastertronic and relaunched their label. They used the same colour scheme as Mastertronic for identifying machine formats, and the Firebird logo shaped like a red phoenix took centre stage.

Their games from this period were much better, while still selling at £1.99, such as Harvey Headbanger. Firebird also sold some full price £9.99 games (the Gold Range), one of which was Elite. This got a Gold Medal in the very first issue of Zzap! 64. Revs, the driving game, was another classic, even though you really needed an analogue joystick to get the best from it.

1986: Rainbird is born
1986 saw the first sub-label launched: Rainbird. They would sell games slightly more expensive (£14.99) and one of the first of these was Starglider. While great on the ST, the C64 version was a little slow to say the least.

Meanwhile on the budget side, there was Thrust. One classic C64 game, and interestingly review copies had a bugged loader which messed up Rob Hubbard's music. This explains the lowish music rating in mag reviews, although Zzap! later admitted they would have given it 93% if they would have heard the proper version.

Also at this time Rainbird acquired the rights to release adventures by Level 9, and then also Magnetic Scrolls. The Pawn when launched was an instant classic despite really needing a C128!

1987: Arcade conversions, budget games and re-releases
1987 saw Firebird's first move into arcade conversions, with Bubble Bobble and Flying Shark. Also at this time came a lot of budget games with Rob Hubbard digi tunes, namely Arcade Classics and BMX Kidz with Ricochet following in 1988. Also in 1987, Firebird gained the rights to re-release Activision titles, such as River Raid, Pitfall 2, Decathlon and Zenji. For gamers, the chance to play these old titles at just £1.99 was just too irresistible. And of course, there was Zolyx. A variant on Qix it might have been, but so playable and so frustrating. It's really addictive!

1988: A year of change
Firebird itself was to be the home of all £9.99 releases, with budget games via its new sub label Silverbird (easy to work out the name) and Rainbird still carrying on as normal. Firebird's games then included Black Lamp, Samurai Warrior and Savage. Silverbird in this and next year scored some surprise hits including Scorpius, with graphics by a certain John and Steve Rowlands, Trojan Warrior, Scuba Kidz and European 5-A-Side. Firebird had managed to acquire the programming house Graftgold after they had had legal battles with Hewson, with Morpheus released on Rainbird, then Magnetron and Intensity on Firebird. However, poor sales would mean that Graftgold would leave soon after and become freelancers.

1990: Game Over
British Telecom closed Firebird down in 1990 and sold the rights to all the labels to Microprose for an undisclosed sum.

An old employee?
If anyone reading this ever worked for Firebird, or indeed produced any games for them, feel free to let us know your experiences of working there.

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