Ultimate were a very successful 8-bit development and publishing company, mostly for the Sinclair Spectrum and later the Amstrad CPC and a few unique titles for the Commodore 64. Owned and run by Chris and Tim Stamper, their range of games are still held in high regard by many retro fans today.
Back in 1985, TelecomSoft struck a deal with Ultimate to develop, publish and distribute Commodore 64 conversions of three Ultimate Spectrum games. TelecomSoft had an established publication and distribution set up in the US, which probably helped persuade the Stampers to work with BT.
Three Commodore 64 versions were chosen for the deal – Sabre Wulf (converted by Greg Duddle of Mr Micro Ltd), Night Shade (converted by Shahid Ahmad of P.S.I.) and Underwurlde (converted by Softstone). Unfortunately, none of the conversions were received with much enthusiasm in the Commodore 64 market because they were essentially direct conversions from the Spectrum and hadn’t been improved or enhanced in any way. This approach was at the request of Ultimate, who didn’t want their games changed in any way during the conversion process.
Firebird Licensees Inc. in the United States released the Commodore 64 versions of Sabre Wulf and Underwurlde together on one disk via the Super Silverdisk label, but there’s no evidence to show that Nightshade ever got a US release. It’s unknown how popular they were in the US, but I suspect they didn’t sell in any great numbers.
Soon afterwards, Ultimate signed a 12 month publication and distribution deal with rival UK publisher US Gold to publish and market new Ultimate titles. At the time it wasn’t perceived or promoted as Ultimate being sold but later Ultimate titles were produced in-house at U.S. Gold and it later transpired that the Stampers had sold most of the company to US Gold (including most but not all of their back catalogue titles).
Before the US Gold deal was announced, rumours persisted that TelecomSoft were on the verge of buying Ultimate, but despite trying to expand the existing working relationship, Ultimate spurned BT’s approaches and went with U.S. Gold instead.
With Ultimate now in the hands of US Gold, this freed the original Ultimate team to create a new separate company called Rare. Rare went on to huge success, developing games for Nintendo primarily on the NES, SNES and N64 consoles on games like Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye and Banjo Kazooie. Rare have since been bought by Microsoft.