Neversoft Entertainment (or simply Neversoft) is an American video game developer, founded in 1994 by Joel Jewett, Mick West and Chris Ward. Neversoft is best recognized for their line of Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero video game franchises. The company was acquired by Activision in October 1999.
Neversoft was founded in July 1994 by three employees of Malibu Interactive, (previously Acme Interactive) a division of Malibu Comics based in Westlake Village, California. At that time the primary platforms were the 16-bit consoles, the Mega Drive/Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Games for these systems could be developed by very small teams, anywhere from two to ten developers. As a result it was much easier than at present to set up a game development company, and several groups of people had already left Malibu to strike out on their own. Left Field Productions and Paradox Development being two extant companies that were founded in such a way, with others such as Clockwork Tortoise no longer in existence. Joel Jewett, a native of Montana and a CPA, was at the time head of development at the rapidly shrinking Malibu Interactive. He teamed up with Mick West, a game programmer who had just completed working on "Battletech - A Game of Armored Combat" for the Mega Drive/Genesis, and Chris Ward, an Artist. Both Chris and Mick were from Yorkshire in England, although they first met when they moved to California in 1993 to work at Malibu Interactive.
In July 1994, Neversoft was formed. They initially found work for Playmates Interactive Entertainment a then division of Playmates Toys, who were about to release a line of toys called Skeleton Warriors and wanted a video game to go along with the toys and the cartoon series. Neversoft began work on the game design and moved into offices in Woodland Hills, California. Neversoft worked on the Sega Genesis version for five months, over that time they hired another artist and a level designer. In December 1994 Playmates cancelled the game. They were not unhappy with the progress, but had decided that they needed to get on the 32-Bit bandwagon and develop the game for the Sega Saturn. 1995 was spent developing Skeleton Warriors for the Sega Saturn. Over the course of 1995, Neversoft grew rapidly by hiring three programmers, five artists, a level designer, a tester and an office administrator. Skeleton Warriors was finished in time for the 1995 holiday season and Neversoft began looking for other work while they ported Skeleton Warriors to the PlayStation in 1996.
Neversoft continued to expand during 1996, swelling to over twenty employees. They worked for six months on a game based on Ghost Rider for Crystal Dynamics which was cancelled due to financial problems with the publisher. They got connected to the internet (previously all communications were done with phone and fax). With some excess capacity Neversoft started to develop a game of their own design, initially called Big Guns. The technology developed there was used in their next project, a conversion of the PC game MDK. Towards the end of 1996, Neversoft sold the idea for Big Guns to Sony Computer Entertainment and they began development. 1997 was a tumultuous year for Neversoft. The MDK conversion took far longer than expected, and the Big Guns game (renamed Exodus) went through numerous design changes at the behest of Sony and was eventually cancelled in November 1997. The company shrunk back to just twelve employees. Neversoft then spent the next few months shopping around their technology, meeting with numerous companies and looking for work.
In January 1998, just as Neversoft was about to run out of money, they had a fortunate meeting with Activision who were looking for someone to re-develop Apocalypse, a failed internal project featuring the voice of Bruce Willis. The technology developed for Big Guns turned out to be ideal for the project, Activision was impressed and Neversoft began work on Apocalypse. In May 1998, Apocalypse was going very well, and Activision signed up Neversoft to develop a prototype for a skateboarding game. This proceeded slowly as they could not spare many people from Apocalypse. The initial prototypes resembled the arcade game Top Skater. Apocalypse wrapped up in October 1998 and development began in earnest on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (aka THPS) for the PlayStation and N64. By the end of 1998, the game development was in full swing and at this time Neversoft comprised 16 people: six programmers, five artists, three level designers, one producer and Joel, the President.
From 1999 to 2007, Neversoft developed nine Tony Hawk's games and increased their employees to over 150.
In 2005, Neversoft also developed a western action-adventure open world stealth game entitled Gun alongside Beenox and Rebellion Developments.
In 2006, Activision acquired the Guitar Hero series as well as Red Octane and chose Neversoft as their developer. Neversoft developed several games in the franchise, breaking several records with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, until 2010 when the games following Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock would be developed by Vicarious Visions, developers of the Wii ports and Guitar Hero: Van Halen. In light of this, 50 employees were laid off on February 11, 2010.