I can’t really explain how much I loved Treasure Mountain. Which is lucky because it was the only computer game I ever had. We didn’t have a computer, but I used to spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ house and I would sit for hours and hours and hours walking round and round and round.
I can still recall the music perfectly, which as it turns out is because it was some quality shit. Beethoven, CPE Bach and some Bach Sr, to be precise.
When I looked up the game on Wikipedia recently, about 25 years later, I was surprised to see it described as an ‘educational computer game’ that ‘teaches children aged five to nine reading, basic math, and logic skills’. I was like, bullshit man. That game was about catching elves in nets and collecting coins and shit.
Then I watched a video of the gameplay on YouTube and about 20 seconds in, this happens:
I was like, what the fuck, man. Word sums?
Those sneaky guys.
Anyway, it turns out Treasure Mountain was made by a software firm called The Learning Company that headed up by a very questionable character called Kevin O’Leary.
The Learning Company was bought in 1999 by Mattel – the Barbie people – at the hopelessly overblown valuation of $4.2 billion. Just about a year later Mattel sold it for about a tenth of the purchase price, making a loss of about $3.6 billion.
It’s often called one of the worst acquisitions of all time.
As a sidenote, O’Leary signed a three-year contract with Mattel, but left after six months. With $5 million in severance pay. Genius.
Ultimately, Mattel experienced a $105 million loss after acquiring The Learning Company, instead of the projected $50-million profit. Its stock crashed, and the company lost $3 billion of shareholder value in a single day.
At the time Mattel sold The Learning Company, it was losing $1 million a day.
That would make a pretty epic word sum.
(I still wish I knew what ELF XING meant.)