A New Identity
Firebird started life as a budget range (Firebird Silver), and the budget range eventually evolved into the Firebird £1.99 Silver Range. Ultimately, the Firebird label – minus any ‘Gold’ or ‘Hot’ sub-labels – was destined for full-priced games, so a new identity for the budget range was needed. In keeping with the ‘bird’ theme, the new budget label was christened Silverbird, and was revealed to invited magazine journalists at a special lunch in the restaurant at the top of the Telecom Tower in central London in early 1988. Magazines were also sent a press release to confirm the change.
The following few months (March/April 1988), saw magazines publish an advert to announce the re-configured labels to the public. The TelecomSoft Marketing Department also announced the re-branding to distributors and retailers via issue 4 of TelecomSoft News.
A new stripy packaging design was adopted, with red and black stripes for £1.99 8-bit releases, and yellow and black for £2.99 games. C64 disks (containing two budget games) with orange and black stripes were planned for £3.99, and 3 inch disks (containing two CPC budget games) with green and black stripes was also planned for £6.99. Lastly, a handful of 16-bit Atari ST Silverbird releases (priced at £9.99) used blue and black stripes. The budget range was managed in-house for TelecomSoft by Colin Fuidge, and assisted by Jo Bonar. In many ways, the stripes harked back to the packaging design used by the Firebird Super Silver range from 1985/86.
The new Silverbird logo was a silver version of the previous Firebird logo but with a new font. Initially, the cassette labels still had Firebird on them, with the red logo and the oriental-style font. This eventually changed to incorporate 'Silverbird' printed directly onto the cassette as well as on the packaging. To fit in with this new publishing model, the (full-price) Firebird logo was also amended, with the firey wings being pushed upwards in a more dynamic pose to give all three labels their own distinct 'look'.
5 free games were on offer in a prize draw if customers wrote to TelecomSoft and expressed their opinion on the new packaging. By then, the Silver Club had quietly disappeared. This was a newsletter that was sent out to members and it had provided a forum in the past for customers to write in and express their opinions as well as get the latest budget news and special offers. Only current Silverbird releases were mentioned inside the new packaging (with colour screenshots no less!); the previous copious list of Firebird budget titles was gone for ever.
Almost all of the Silverbird titles were new to budget, including a straight-to-budget conversion of a little known 1986 Atari coin-op called Peter Packrat and the usual mix of original games (e.g. European 5-A-Side) and budget releases of other publishers’ titles (e.g. both Cauldron and Starstrike games, I of the Mask, etc). Whilst Arcade Classics on the C64 was published under the old-style £1.99 Silver Range packaging, the Spectrum version was released as part of the new Silverbird range. In fact, the new budget range had such a prolific release schedule, that nearly sixty different games were published in just over a year! For the first time in ages, TelecomSoft published a Silverbird Christmas advert, promoting a dozen different titles including one (Moto-Cross Mania) that was ultimately under a different title and by a completely different publisher! When MicroProse bought TelecomSoft in mid 1989, the future of the Silverbird range was immediately thrown into doubt. It was fairly obvious that the budget label was unlikely to feature in MicroProse's plans, as Stewart Bell admitted to ACE Magazine in the summer of '89, saying:
"This is something of a problem for us. MicroProse are used to selling games in the top end of the market, costing over £20. It's a big jump from there down to the £1.99 category. It's early days at the moment and we're still not sure what we're going to do."
Ultimately, MicroProse dropped the label, resulting in a handful of casualties that including releases like Moto-cross Mania for the C64 and Classic Dogfight for the Sinclair Spectrum. Announcements had also already been made by TelecomSoft regarding the planned release of both I, Ball titles together in one double pack (for the yellow and black striped £2.99 range), along with the budget re-release of Firebird's classic coin-op conversion of Bubble Bobble, again at £2.99. None of the planned releases ever saw the light of day, although this didn't stop certain magazines from publishing reviews of the budget re-release of Bubble Bobble anyway! You couldn't always trust what was written in those magazines...
In 1990, the Prism Leisure Corporation published a series of standalone C64 disk releases that included Thrust, Seabase Delta, Cauldron II and Turbo Boat Simulator. These releases even re-used the existing TelecomSoft artwork for the inlays. Prism also released a number of compilations including the 'Addicta Pack' for the Spectrum on cassette (featuring Mad Nurse, The Happiest Days Of Your Life, Pogostick Olympics and Skateboard Joust) and a C64 disk collection called 'The Action Pack' which included Rock 'n Wrestle, I Ball, Seabase Delta and Thrust.