FASA was founded in 1980. The name stands for "Freedonian Aeronautics and Space Administration," a nod to the fictitious country from the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup. They originally were a licensee for Game Designers Workshop, making supplements for the Traveller RPG. They burst into major recognition when they secured the Star Trek license and produced their first RPG and shortly after that a Star Trek themed wargame. The company was still a small player in the gaming world though, until they got inspired by watching anime.
BattleTech was a simple tactical wargame. The major draw was the gigantic robot theme, popular in many Anime shows that were just starting to see American shores. The robots were large, hi-tech, and loaded for Bear. A winning combo. A MechWarrior RPG soon followed.
Shadowrun and Earthdawn
Inspired by the success of their wargame and TSR's apparent success with Dungeons and Dragons, FASA decided to have a go at the RPG scene again. FASA developed and released Shadowrun. The game met with critical success, blending the high fantasy of traditional D&D with the dystopian near future feel of Cyberpunk 2020. It also boasted 'simple' (read: less convoluted than the average RPG at the time) game mechanics, being played only with standard six-sided dice. Shadowrun put FASA right up with the big boys of the RPG industry. Shadowrun decided to try out straight high fantasy soon afterwards, to try to grab those fans who may have been adverse to playing in a technology saturated world, and developed and released Earthdawn. Earthdawn was linked to the Shadowrun universe and had a great deal of background in the material. The mechanics were drastically different from Shadowrun though, losing the simplicity and the draw that it generated for FASA's earlier RPGs.
FASA closed up shop in 2001. The rights to the games went to WizKids, a company founded by one of FASA's former owners - Jordan Weisman. Weisman currently is the CEO of a new games company named Smith & Tinker, and they have
acquired the rights to all former FASA properties from Microsoft been thoroughly screwed by a legal war that ended with Piranha Games owning the IP and working on Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries with Microsoft.
While FASA closed up creative operations in 2001, they remained active as an IP holding company, retaining licenses to game lines. In 2012, they re-opened FASA Games Inc. as a wholly owned subsidiary under the parent company. They officially announced their comeback at Gencon Indy 2012, with plans to release Earthdawn 4th edition, as well as a new game line, 1879, and plans to create more new games.