Disney’s Christmas Configuration Calamity

In the summer of 1994, Walt Disney Corporation had a mega-hit movie on its hands with The Lion King. Seeking to capitalize on this, they brought out a Lion King video game for the PC, which they made available in time for Christmas. About that time, a computer industry trade group, hoping to boost sales of CD-ROM drives and sound cards, had the bright idea of defining a standard called the “Multimedia PC”—a PC machine with an 80486 processor, an 8-bit Sound Blaster card or equivalent, and a single-speed CD-ROM drive. Millions of people bought machines marked “Multimedia PC” in the belief that they were the hottest thing going in audio and video for the personal computer.

Unfortunately, someone at Disney had decided The Lion King would sound better on a 16-bit sound card … and that was the machine they developed it for. It didn’t work, as shipped, on the much-vaunted Multimedia PC.

Christmas morning 1994 was an unmitigated disaster for Disney. Thousands upon thousands of angry parents called Disney’s help line to ask why their game wouldn’t work on what they believed was the latest and greatest PC. In the end, over half the games were returned for a refund.

If only they had done a configuration test with an 8-bit sound card…

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