Sunday, June 9, 2024

Grandslam Entertainment

Grandslam House, 56 Leslie Park Road, Croydon, CR0

The Running Man, C64 cover
Grandslam Entertainment was born in 1987, renamed from Argus Press Software, which had been spun off from Argus Specialist Publications, which was itself the hobby magazine division of Argus Press, which was itself a publishing company owned by BET PLC. Until 1985, BET PLC had been known as British Electric Traction and they were an absolutely enormous conglomerate who owned absolutely everything from Wembley Stadium to waste disposal specialists Biffa. They were big. And big was out of fashion in 1985. So BET PLC began divesting itself of its share of laundry companies and television companies and crane companies, and slimmed itself down. Until, in 1996, BET PLC was taken over by Rentokill and that's the end of their story.

This is part two, for part one see Argus Press Software.

Victory House, Leicester Place, WC2H

Somewhere in the middle of this tale of corporate expansion and contraction, Stephen Hall, the managing director of Argus Press Software, saw an opportunity:

Argus Press in name change.

ARGUS Press Software will, from January next year, be known as Grand Slam Entertainments Ltd. Stephen Hall, managing director of Argus Press Software, recently bought all of the issued share capital of the company from Argus Press Group. He decided to change the name to reflect the company's diversification in the entertainment industry

The deal involves all the assets and liabilities of Argus Press Software Ltd. The trading names of Lothlorien, Mind Games and Grand Slam will continue, as will previous brand names, Quicksilva and Bug Byte.

(POPULAR COMPUTING WEEKLY, 26 November-2 December 1987 page 6)

I'm not sure it was quite as simple as PCW made it sound. The usual period of confusion followed, as is so often the case with big internal changes within companies. The first Grandslam branded release, in early 1988, was The Hunt for Red October. Adverts still referred to it as an Argus Press game well into May and the packaging of the Spectrum version has the Grandslam branding alongside the Argus Press address at Victory House.

C&VG May 1988 page 118
C&VG May 1988 page 118

The C64 version [1] of Pac-Land was released around May 1988 as a Quicksilva game. The Spectrum, Atari ST, and Amiga versions disappear into limbo and don't get reviewed until a year later. A CRASH report on the Argus Press buyout mentions a couple of games scheduled for 1988 which never appeared; The Football Association/England Team Game and a second game from Argus' Grange Hill licence which would be more arcade focused than the first. 

The ink was barely dry on the buyout deal when Grandslam announced, The Flintstones. (POPULAR COMPUTING WEEKLY, 10-16 December 1987 page 6). This is the first game conceived and developed under the Grandslam brand and had an astonishingly fast turnaround, going from announcement in December 1987 to review by April 1988. Argus' Quicksilva label had already released a Flintstones game in 1986, Yabba Dabba Do, and I wonder if that licence allowed a sequel to be quickly rattled out.  

Grandslam offices, Victory House, Leicester Place, WC2H
September 2023
 At this point Grandslam was still operating out of Argus Press' address at Victory House. These days it's a posh boutique hotel. In 1988 it was the home of Argus Consumer Publications. Another bit of BET PLC.

 -yet another wing of BET PLC.

12-18 Paul Street, London, EC2A

The adverts for The Flintstones carry the Victory House address for Grandslam but by the time the game arrives the packaging carries a new address out towards Liverpool Street, 12-18 Paul Street. It looks like Grandslam have achieved independence from BET but Paul Street was another head on the BET hydra, the address of Argus Press Sales & Distribution Ltd. This was the company which distributed the magazines published by Argus Consumer Publication and Argus Specialist Press, including HOME COMPUTING WEEKLY and GAMES COMPUTING.

Paul Street was also the home of Mastertronic from September 1985 to September 1988. In fact, Grandslam were right next door to Mastertronic, who operated out of 8-10 Paul Street. So there was presumably a six month period when employees of the two companies could greet each other with a cheery hello. Both buildings are gone. Paul Street a bit north of the site of the old Broad Street Station (as in Give My Regards to Broad Street) and the area has been in a state of almost continuous redevelopment since 1986. The Mastertronic and Grandslam buildings both survived to be photographed by the first Streetview survey in 2008.  The narrow streets make it difficult to get good photos and I had to walk back into Bonhill Street in order to get a good view of the building which now stands at 12-18 Paul Street.

Grandslam offices, 12-18 Paul Street, London, EC2A
September 2023

Grandslam House, 56 Leslie Park Road, Croydon, CR0

Grandslam offices 56 Leslie Park Road, Croydon, CR0
June 2024

Late 1989 saw Grandslam leave central London and move south to Croydon. To an unremarkable two-story brick building which the company immodestly named Grandslam House. It's not that grand. Croydon is one of those places which is always in the throes of redevelopment but I suspect "Grandslam House" looks pretty much like it did in 1989.

Grandslam had good instincts. The company did well from licences like The Hunt for Red October and The Running Man which may not have been as high profile as some of the ones their rivals scrapped over, but which resonated well with a target audience of young men. In 1989, Grandslam licensed the rights to produce a Liverpool football club game or, at least, they thought they did. NEW COMPUTER EXPRESS explained what happened under the headline Liverpool Foul Up Baffles Publishers: 

An extraordinary sequence of events and misunderstandings has meant that gamers can expect not one, but two Liverpool computer games this year - as well as a further two featuring Liverpool players.

Grandslam announced that it had secured the official Liverpool licence late last year and that a game would be appearing "some time in '89". However, a small company called Video Images last week claimed that it had secured the Liverpool licence and that a budget game would be appearing by Easter

It would appear though that Liverpool has managed to secure licence fees for two games: Grand Slam has the rights on the team whilst Video Images has the whole football club.

In other words, Video Images had the rights to a game based on Liverpool FC while Grandslam had the rights to produce a game based on the Liverpool players. Grandslam soldiered on developing their game through 1989 and into 1990; now under the safely generic title of Liverpool. The market had changed and the game was now advertised as being available for the Amiga, Atari ST, and C64 with Amstrad and Spectrum versions "to be confirmed." The game was released in the summer of 1990 to poor to indifferent reviews. Just in time for Grandslam to go into receivership.

It's frustratingly difficult to find any solid information about the receivership process. CU AMIGA gives the most detail:

There's no indication of how big Grandslam's overall debt will be, but the crunch came when the firm's bankers, Barclays, called in the receivers. 

Grandslam, unlike Tynesoft who went into liquidation around the same time in 1990, came out the other side. I suspect their survival owed a lot to the company's canny choice of licences. A game of the film like The Running Man is always going to stand out on the shop shelf. The 1990 release of the film version of The Hunt for Red October also came at a lucky time. Grandslam seem to have been able to cash in on their original licence for the book and then also grabbed the film licence to produce a second, different, game. How long did Grandslam stay under receivership? It's not clear. There's a throwaway mention of the Die Hard 2 game in ACE issue 43:"Grandslam has risen out of the ashes to bring us the computer and console cut of the Bruce Willis all-action movie." This might be when the company burst forth again but as late as 1992 THE ONE notedt: "Grandslam has been pretty quiet of late." Coming out of receivership is a process which requires a head down focus on paying off debt. Companies which do make it out of the other side are often very different and it's not clear how much Grandslam was changed by the process. The raw numbers suggest they were developing fewer games; Mobygames lists six games in 1989, one in 1990, two in 1991, and five in 1992 (these figures need to be taken with the usual Mobygames pinch of salt). Was Stephen Hall still managing director? Yes, I think so.

Grandslam House, 3 Rathbone Square, 28 Tanfield Road, Croydon, CR0

What do I know? Grandslam had moved across Croydon by the end of 1993 to a new building which they promptly renamed Grandslam House, again. Rathbone Square is a private business estate tucked away in the corner of Tanfield Road. One of the tenants is a security guard service so I wasn't going to poke around too much.

Grandslam offices, Grandslam House, 3 Rathbone Square, 28 Tanfield Road, Croydon, CR0
June 2024

Grandslam were dissolved on 3 June 1997, according to Companies House (company number 01757461). What happened from 1993 to 1997? Grandslam really seem to have hitched their wagon to the Commodore train. Mobygames records seven titles released between 1993-97 on 11 formats; of those 11, one was for the Atari ST and three were for DOS; of the remainder, one was a C64 game, three were for the Amiga32, and four were Amiga games. If this is correct, then the bankruptcy of Commodore in 1994 and its subsequent purchase by ESCOM, and then their financial problems and bankruptcy in July 1996 will have hit Grandslam hard.

There's an interesting piece in the February 1996 issue of CU AMIGA:

It makes a nice change to be able to start with some good news, this time from Amiga-loyal Grandslam, where their massive adventure/fantasy RPG Seventh Sword of Mendor is back in production having been left on the back burner while Escom sorted themselves out...
As for any future Amiga products, well .., it's hard to say. Grandslam's main problem has been finding distributors to take on the Amiga products, and while the likes of Beatties are happy to deal with Amiga, they're not on the Gallup rosier, so things {shall we say) are slightly less than perfect. That said, Grandslam are still remaining open-minded as far as Amiga projects go, although they have reported a distinct drop in the quality of submissions they've been receiving. They reckon that this is simply because there isn't enough encouragement for the market to succeed.
Still, though Grandslam are spending more time with their InterNet work (they run a Cyber sports Fantasy League site) they will hopefully be announcing a new Amiga release for next year, but I can't really say much more right now (very hush, hush until contracts are signed you understand.) All I can say, is that it is a game we've seen about before, and it looks pretty darn juicy, so keep 'em peeled

THE CROYDON POST Wednesday January 31 1996, page 59
Wednesday January 31 1996, page 59
Seventh Sword of Mendor never appeared. In fact, I'm not sure Grandslam released any games after 1995. What caught my eye in that article is the reference to Grandslam spending more time with "a Cyber sports Fantasy League site" (and check out that fab 1996 spelling of InterNet). It ties in with this recruitment advert I found in THE CROYDON POST.  Look at the email address down the bottom, It's not unreasonable to assume that's Stephen Hall, still managing director after all these years, but what about the web address The Wayback Machine is your friend. It records its first snapshot in December 1996. The cybersports website is online Fantasy Football, an attempt to grab part of the craze which really took off in 1993 when THE DAILY TELEGRAPH launched their first fantasy football league. is a charming snapshot of the early online days. It promotes something called Cybersoccer 97, "Join in the fun and win a 200MHz Multimedia Pentium PC." A quick spin through the website suggests it lasted in its web 1.0 form at least until 2004, although the banner never advances beyond 1997 -the year Grandslam were dissolved.

[1] There is a story behind the ZZAP!64 Pac-Land cover which editor Julian Rignall once described as "hands-down the worst cover of any Newsfield magazine of this era." He and Newsfield artist Oliver Frey had a dispute over how the cover should look. Following an argument, Oliver Frey took offence at having his ideas rejected "slammed his hands down on his desk and shouted with a great deal of exasperation that he would indeed draw Pac-Land for the cover. Literally 20 minutes later, Oli came down to the ZAPP! office with the cover art, threw it across my desk and walked off without a word... it looked totally half-assed, but since we were rapidly approaching deadline and I didn't want to deal with Oli again, we just went with it. Most of the time I had no problems with Oli, but just occasionally he could be very difficult to deal with -and would sometimes cut off his nose to spite his face. This was one of those occasions." The story was printed in issue 57 of Commodore 64 fanzine FREEZE64, and you can order a copy here.

Did you play Cybersoccer 97? Did you win a 200MHz Multimedia Pentium PC? If you did, then why not send me an email but send it to and not that crummy Yahoo address I've been using for the past couple of years; which turns out not to forward messages on to me for reasons I am too lazy to investigate. Apologies if you did send something to the Yahoo email address and never got a reply. This is because I am technically inept and not because I am the worst person in the world. Alternatively you could leave a comment, or find me on Bluesky,, and Instagram, shammountebank. Meanwhile, I need to go back and find every instances I've used the cursed Yahoo email address and update it. Bah!

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