When Paula Byrne took charge of TelecomSoft in the UK, she looked at the US operation and concluded that whilst the current operation had done a good job in securing a foothold in the US market, it really wasn’t focused enough on US sensibilities – the types of game chosen for release, the overall packaging style, even down to the US sense of humour compared to the British – all these reasons contributed to the decision to close down the New Jersey office in 1988 and start again with a smaller, more US specific team which included Cynthia Bruschi, who had previously worked for US publisher The Learning Company.
Distribution for the new US operation was narrowed down to a choice between two firms – Electronic Arts and Mediagenic (formerly Activision). In the end, Mediagenic got the nod and a small Firebird/Rainbird presence was setup within Mediagenic’s offices at 3885 Bohannan Drive, Menlo Park, California. Packaging more suitable for the US games market was introduced, using slimmer and glossier boxes with a more abstract approach being employed for some of the layout and artwork. The publishing label also switched from Firebird Licencees Inc. to Rainbird Software.
Titles released in the US with the new-style packaging included the ST and Amiga versions of Elite, Virus, Carrier Command, Starglider, Starglider 2, UMS (and the two data disks), Enlightenment: Druid 2, Corruption, Fish, Space Cutter (aka Whirligig) and Black Lamp.
The US operation was eventually forced to stop using the Rainbird publishing label in the US in late 1988 after a US company called Rainbird (who made water-sprinklers and similar garden related products) successfully argued that they might branch out into computer software in the future. This sounds like a significant blow, but there was only a few months to go before the entire operation was put up for sale by BT so in the end it didn't make a huge difference.
Unfortunately, I have no details regarding what happened to the people who were working for Firebird Licensees Inc. or who were working for the Rainbird label when TelecomSoft was sold. I'd really like to hear from any of those who were directly involved in these events, so please leave a comment or get in touch!