Digital Antiquarian has posted a lengthy and exhaustive look at Origin history circa 1992-1994. The focus is on the company's acquisition by Electronic Arts, which is a great subject to dive into. Over the years, there's been something of a mythology built up around the topic with some assuming there was a hostile takeover, that it happened much later than it actually did, and that Origin was immediately stifled and had its creative freedom axed. The reality is more nuanced, and there were both significant positives as well as negatives as the deal unfolded.
Origin had good reason to play it safe now in this respect and others. When the one-year anniversary of the acquisition arrived, the accountants had to reveal to EA that their new subsidiary had done no more than break even so far. By most standards, it hadn’t been a terrible year at all: Ultima Underworld II, Serpent Isle, Wing Commander: Academy, and Wing Commander: Privateer had all more or less made money, and even Strike Commander wasn’t yet so badly underwater that all hope was lost on that front. But on the other hand, none of these games had turned into a breakout hit in the fashion of the first two Wing Commander games, even as the new facilities, new employees, and new titles going into development had cost plenty. EA was already beginning to voice some skepticism about some of Origin’s recent decisions. The crew in Austin really, really needed a home run rather than more base hits if they hoped to maintain their status in the industry and get back into their overlord’s good graces. Clearly 1994, which would feature a new mainline entry in both of Origin’s core properties for the first time since Ultima VI had dropped and Wing Commander mania had begun back in 1990, would be a pivotal year. Origin’s future was riding now on Ultima VIII and Wing Commander III.Thanks to Ultima Codex for the tip!