Games development pioneer Fergus McGovern dies suddenly at 50

Founded Probe Entertainment, which made numerous ports for 1990s consoles

Fergus McGovern, an early and influential success in video gaming who founded the studio and port shop Probe Software before he turned 20, died over the weekend. He was 50.

News of McGovern’s death was reported by Crystal Palace Football Club, where McGovern had been a board member for more than 15 years. Develop reported that McGovern’s death was believed to be caused by a blood clot resulting from a transatlantic flight.

McGovern co-founded Probe Software in 1984, and it quickly became known for porting well known, and lucrative, arcade games for early PC gaming platforms. Probe grew into a significant player as console gaming took hold in the 1990s, developing franchises such as OutRun, FIFA and Mortal Kombat on a wide variety of platforms.

In Mortal Kombat 2‘s home versions, Probe became notorious for the “Fergality” Easter egg, in which Raiden would turn into a big-head mode Fergus McGovern sprite.

Probe Entertainment, as it was renamed, was sold to Acclaim for $40 million in 1995; it became known as Acclaim Studios Cheltenham until the entire company declared bankruptcy in 2004. In a 2008 profile by The Guardian, McGovern was said to have been made a millionaire in the deal, and he later founded the studio HotGen. That was known for a line of plug-and-play joystick games based on classic arcade titles.

Crystal Palace’s statement noted that McGovern had been vice chairman of the Palace Foundation, and that his work for charity earned him the Freedom of the City of London award.

“Fergus has been a near permanent fixture in the boardroom at Palace for over 15 years, becoming one of the club’s first Associate Directors,” Palace said. “In his professional life Fergus was one of the most successful talents within the video games industry, with over 30 years’ experience in interactive game and toy development.”

He is survived by his wife, Deanna, and three children, Abby, Ryan and Ella.