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id Software, maker of Doom, is sold to ZeniMax Media [UPDATED]

June 24, 2009 | 11:24 am
Wolfenstein, a shooter developed by id Software. Credit: id Software.

Id Software, the creator of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Quake games, has been sold to ZeniMax Media for an undisclosed amount. ZeniMax's Bethesda Softworks studio created the popular Elder Scrolls role playing series of games.

In a statement released this morning, ZeniMax said the development process at id will remain untouched:

John Carmack. Credit: id Software.

id Software will continue to operate as a studio under the direction of its founder, John Carmack. No changes will be made in the operations of id Software in the development of its games. All the principals at id Software have signed long-term employment contracts, assuring they will continue in their roles developing games at the studio.

Founded in 1999, ZeniMax in 2004 bought the Fallout franchise from Interplay Entertainment. It then created Fallout 3, an action role-playing game that turned out to be one of the most critically successful games of 2008 with a Metacritic score of 93%. Any score above 90% is considered outstanding.

Other terms of the deal, which closed Tuesday, also were not disclosed. Both companies were privately held.

The seeds of the transaction were planted in Los Angeles at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, when...


Todd Hollenshead. Credit: id Software.

... ZeniMax founder and Chief Executive Robert Altman sat down for coffee with id's president, Todd Hollenshead.

"At first, we were skeptical a deal could happen given their success and their history of independence," Altman said. "But as we talked, the deal made so much sense. We are strong in role-playing games, they invented the first-person shooter genre."

Altman added that industry economics also played a role in bringing together his Rockville, Md., firm and the Mesquite, Texas, developer.

"Despite this being a growth industry, you're still seeing a lot of companies struggling," Altman said. "There's a good deal of foment and consolidation happening. You need greater financial strength to succeed. The cost of advertising is greater than it used to be. Titles are more expensive to create. These are structural changes that affect everyone. And Todd and John were very aware of that."

Carmack said id has turned down many offers over the years from large publishers. "We would be just one of many studios at an Activision or an [Electronic Arts]," he said in an interview. "When we looked at Bethesda, there was a very high level of mutual admiration. And there is zero overlap in our products. It fits perfectly." 

While the developer's agreements with Activision to publish Wolfenstein and EA to publish Rage are intact, future games, including Doom 4, will be published by ZeniMax, Carmack said.

Carmack, who remains chief technology officer at id, said rather than shrink payroll as many companies do after being sold, id will expand its team from 100 developers today to as many 130 sometime next year so the studio can produce more games.

"Ideally, we'd like to have one major game release every year," Carmack said. "Reality may intrude, but that's at least the plan."

Updated, 4:22 pm: This post has been updated to include comments from John Carmack.

-- Alex Pham