Ocean Software

Ocean Software Ltd was a British software development company, that became one of the biggest European video game developers and publishers of the 1980s and 1990s.

Ocean Software Limited
Video game developer, video game publisher
FateAcquired by Infogrames in 1996 and merged with parent company. Later renamed to Infogrames United Kingdom Limited in 1998, and later renamed again as Atari United Kingdom Limited.
Acquired by Bandai Namco in 2009 and renamed as Bandai Namco Entertainment UK Limited
PredecessorSpectrum Games
SuccessorInfogrames UK (1998)
Atari UK (2003)
Bandai Namco Entertainment UK Limited (2009)
FounderDavid Ward
Jon Woods
Defunct1998; 22 years ago (1998)
Headquarters6 Central Street, Manchester, England
Key people
Paul Patterson
Gary Bracey
Marc Djan (Ocean France)
ParentOcean International Ltd.

The company was founded by David Ward and Jon Woods and was based in Manchester. Ocean developed dozens of games for a variety of systems such as the ZX Spectrum, Oric 1, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, MSX, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 16, Atari ST, Amiga, PC, BBC micro and video game consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Master System and Sega Genesis.


The company started out as "Spectrum Games" in 1983, selling arcade clones for various home computers including the ZX81, ZX Spectrum and VIC 20.[1] Although not named after the ZX Spectrum, the name became confusing and was changed to Ocean Software leading to some of their games being re-released with different titles so the Berzerk clone Frenzy was reissued as the Robotics and Missile Attack became Armageddon. Their early releases (Moon Alert, Hunchback, High Noon, Gilligan's Gold, Daley Thompson's Decathlon etc.) were developed in-house, but later in 1984 Ocean Software acquired its former Liverpool rival, the defunct software developer Imagine, and focus shifted from development to publication of games. Also in 1984, Ocean struck a deal with Konami to publish their arcade games for home computers.

In 1985, Ocean Software managed to secure the first movie licences, such as Rambo, Short Circuit and Cobra, as well as the TV show Miami Vice and RoboCop which spent about a year on the top of the charts.

In 1986, a deal was signed with Taito and Data East for home versions of their arcade games such as Arkanoid, Renegade, Operation Wolf and The NewZealand Story. Also in 1986, Ocean Software created with Marc DJAN Ocean Software France. This studio would create most of the 16-bit arcade conversions between 1986 and 1991, which then became the French marketing and sales subsidiary of Ocean Software Ltd.

In 1987, Ocean Software published original games again, after a marginal season filled with licences, resulting in Head over Heels, Match Day II and Wizball.

Ocean was voted Best 8-bit Software House of the Year at the 1989 Golden Joystick Awards,[2] along with awards for their 8-bit and 16-bit conversions of Operation Wolf.

In 1996, Ocean Software announced a merge with French publisher Infogrames[3] for £100 million. After the merger Infogrames kept Ocean as a separate division publishing their own games until 1998, when they were rebranded to Infogrames United Kingdom Limited[4] and Ocean's last titles would end up being published by Infogrames' European subsidiary, Infogrames Multimedia SA. The company is now named Bandai Namco Entertainment UK Limited after Bandai Namco's purchase of Atari, SA's European assets in 2009.

Tape loadersEdit

One of the most recognisable features of Ocean games on the Commodore 64 was the Ocean Loader. Since cassettes were the most popular storage medium used in Europe for 8-bit computers, loading a game could take up to 30 minutes. Ocean used a special loading system that displayed a picture based on the game and played music while the game was loading. Five versions of the tune exist; 1 and 2 were composed by Martin Galway, 3 by Peter Clarke, 4 and 5 by Jonathan Dunn. The Ocean Loader was first used in the game Hyper Sports.[5] Up to 1987 the Ocean Loader was written by the in-house Ocean programmer Bill Barna, from 1987 to the end of the Commodore 64's commercial life the loader was replaced by "Freeload" written by in house programmer Paul Hughes.[6][7] Freeload also featured a copyright protection mechanism.[6]

On the ZX Spectrum, games after 1984 generally used the Speedlock protection system, which eventually included a countdown timer showing the time left to load a game.[8]

In 2004, Paul Hughes released the 6502 source code of some of Ocean's development tools, among them Freeload, into the public domain.[6][9][10]


Licensed gamesEdit

Screenshot of Highlander for the Commodore 64

Ocean was famous for often buying the rights to make video games from different arcade, film and television franchises.[11] Many license games combined several styles for example featuring platform action and car driving. These include RoboCop (1988), Batman The Movie (1989) and RoboCop 3 (1991), which featured 3D graphics in 16-bit versions. The adventure game Hook (1992) also received positive reviews. The 1986 game Batman got a rating of 93% in Crash magazine.[12] Among Ocean's licensed games are:

Arcade conversionsEdit

Ocean also acquired several licenses to develop and publish conversions of arcade games for home computers. The year next to each game corresponds to the year of first release of a computer conversion.

Other titlesEdit

Although Ocean was known for its licensed games, it had many other releases.


  1. ^ "Spectrum Games ad". Home Computing Weekly. No. 1. March 1983. p. 47.
  2. ^ "Golden Joysticks 1989". Computer & Video Games (92). EMAP. June 1989. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Infogrames Entertainment S.A. History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  4. ^ "BANDAI NAMCO ENTERTAINMENT UK LTD. - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". beta.companieshouse.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Hyper Sports". ZZap!64. No. 005. September 1985. p. 14.
  6. ^ a b c Hughes, Paul. "Freeload". pauliehughes.com. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Interview with Paul Hughes". c64.com. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  8. ^ Eddy, Richard (September 1987). "The One David". No. 44. Crash. p. 44. Retrieved 9 January 2013. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  9. ^ Gasking, Frank (2004). "Ocean Sources". homepage.ntlworld.com/frank.gasking. Archived from the original on 16 March 2005. Retrieved 25 October 2013. And as a result, Paul has kindly agreed to release sources to the public, for people to check out, to learn from, and to preserve and enjoy.
  10. ^ Hughes, Paul. "Downloads". pauliehughes.com. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  11. ^ Hosie, Ewen (20 May 2015). "How Ocean Software Finally Made Movie-License Video Games Worth Playing". Vice. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Batman". Crash. No. 28. Newsfield Publications Ltd. May 1986. p. 120. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
  13. ^ "DALEY THOMPSON'S SUPERTEST". Your Spectrum. No. 20. November 1985. p. 57.
  14. ^ "Return of the Heroes". Your Spectrum. No. 13. April 1985. p. 36.
  15. ^ Computer conversion of PC Engine game
  16. ^ http://www.crashonline.org.uk/03/lguide10.htm

External linksEdit