The success and failure of Infocom, a company founded by members of MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science, resulted from a combination of factors. Infocom succeeded not only because it made Zork, a text-adventure game, available on personal computers, but also because it developed an effective system for supporting new platforms, maintained an engineering culture that excelled at writing computer games, and marketed its products to the right audience. Similarly, Infocom did not fail simply because it decided to shift its focus to business software by making Cornerstone, a relational database. Infocom failed for many reasons that were closely tied to how the company managed the transition to business products. Behind the scenes, the transition created a litany of problems that hurt both the games and the business divisions of the company. Combined with some bad luck, these problems—not simply the development of Cornerstone—ultimately led to Infocom’s downfall.
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