Erk – Bethesda’s Masters Buy id. Bethidsda?

By Alec Meer on June 24th, 2009 at 5:24 pm.

Shock news, everyone. Bethesda Software – or rather Bethesda’s sinister overlords Zenimax Media Group – now own id Software. As in Quake/Wolfenstein/Doom id Software. It’s a wantonly strange turn of events for a veteran PC studio that’s always been fiercely independent (well, depending on how you feel about their unending sequel-suckling upon the Activision money-teat). It is not, however, necessarily bad news, for all the fact that the internet just exploded. Below, a short statement from id’s big-haired money baron Todd Hollenshead, some quotage from Lord Carmack, and, oh yes, some rampant speculation.

Good idea/bad idea? Hard to say. The mere mention of Bethesda’s name tends to bring out insane rage in a lot of people, which will pollute the general sentiment about this, but Zenimax are arguably a little better at the creative freedom thing (as hopefully demonstrated by their publishing of Splash Damage’s upcoming Brink) than Activision-Blizzard seem to be. Would it be unwise to wonder if the ever-hungry Actard had been making a play for ownership of id themselves, and this seemed like the better deal?

Added to that is that, even if id continue to be commerically successful, their critical reputation has taken a pounding lately. Doom 3 and Quake IV (though handled by Raven, id were at the spearhead of its promotion) left a lot of old fans horribly disappointed, while the upcoming Wolfenstein sequel seems to be very much sticking to safe, uber-gloomy territory. It’s possible that’s been at least partly down to Activision’s requests; perhaps being under the Bethesda umbrella will reignite the studio’s apparently slumbering ambition. Well, bar Rage. Please be good, Rage.

Or perhaps they’ll be tasked with churning out sequel after sequel, with a heavy focus on paid DLC. Who knows?

Hollenshead offers this:

This was a unique opportunity to team with a smart, sophisticated publisher like Bethesda Softworks where the interests of the studio and the publisher will be fully aligned in the development and marketing of our titles. In addition, we will now have financial and business resources to support the future growth of id Software, a huge advantage which will result in more and even better games for our fans.”

Meanwhile, Kotaku has coaxed words from the mouth-hole of John Carmack. Telling statements include this:

“We’re really getting kind of tired competing with our own publishers in terms of how our titles will be featured. And we’ve really gotten more IPs than we’ve been able to take advantage of. And working with other companies hasn’t been working out as spectacularly as it could. So the idea of actually becoming a publisher and merging Bethesda and ZeniMax on there [is ideal.] It would be hard to imagine a more complementary relationship.”

There’s also this scintillating tidbit:

The goal, explained Carmack, is for id to handle all of its own IPs. “We can build the pipeline and have a regular pipeline of releases.”

Which means Raven’s often depressingly workmanlike hands will no longer be allowed to feel up Quake and Wolfenstein. While I’m loath to criticise a studio as a whole, Raven’s unfortunate status as bought’n'owned Activision flunkies has scarcely done great things for their recent output. So, I’m definitely putting my eggs in the this-deal-is-good-news basket. For now, at least.

In case you’re wondering, the upcoming Wolfenstein will still be published by Activision later this year (I do have some thoughts on a pre-E3 briefing of it to post, as it happens. Wasn’t hugely impressed by what I saw, but then I didn’t see much), while the more promising Rage will still be released by EA. Hopefully it’ll still benefit from Zenimax money, as it’s the first id project in years that seems to be beyond their comfort zone. Beyond that, Doom 4 will be a ZeniMax-published title. Chew over that one for a bit, see how it tastes.

Interesting times.

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86 Comments »

  1. Nick says:

    Commercial Diablo Doom then?

  2. Walsh says:

    This is weird and unexpected. I’m afeared.

  3. Ian says:

    I really liked Quake IV.

    Stop looking at me like that!

  4. Dead Fish says:

    Yes, interesting times.

    Fallout 4 + id Tech 5, please.

  5. Baka says:

    Well, following the quotes it sounds like more developing freedom to me.
    Which is a good thing.

    Raven has put out some good titles tho, what will happen to them?

  6. Joao Silva says:

    This is completely surprising, yet even more satisfying.

    Now I can dream of playing a Doom game with all the RPG elements it can benefit from.

  7. jackflash says:

    Oblivion with BFGs.

    I agree on Raven. They used to be hugely original, quality developers, but really started going downhill with, I believe, Soldier of Fortune.

  8. Mo says:

    Wow. Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

    That’s crazy, but it sounds good. As per usual, Carmack comes in with the rational, non-marketing-speak explanation.

  9. Pags says:

    Doom With Guns.

    Wait.

  10. Inigo says:

    @Joao Silva
    Not to mention Pinky demon armour DLC.

  11. MrMud says:

    I don’t necessarily think its bad, its just hugely surprising.

  12. Bob says:

    Raven made soldier of fortune 2, one of the best online games ever! They will always have a place in my heart for that.

    Maybe you can do a sof2 weekend like you did with the unreal mod

  13. Wilson says:

    Raven also did the Star Trek Voyager games, which I enjoyed a lot despite not being a Star Trek fan. I can’t think of anything they’ve done lately though, so maybe they fell off a bit.

  14. PHeMoX says:

    id Software hasn’t been independent for ages… like right after their release of Quake 2 !!! They had lots of developers around them using their engine, for them to be able to continue to be ‘independent’. Their vision has never been independent ever since they gained a huge recognition with their Quake and initial two Doom games.

    They’re only independent in theory, especially lately as Activision clearly began rewarding them for putting out a near continuous stream of ever worse sequels / expansions and an engine that ultimately didn’t really kick enough butt for developers to go for Tech 4 instead of the Unreal Engine.

    Both Doom 3 and Quake 4 reached a certain ‘good’ quality for sure, but I think after the initial hype cooled down people must have always agreed with me in believing it was quite disappointing coming from a developer with such a legacy.

    Of course, the fact the id Software is now owned by Zenimax (which in my opinion still is not the same as being owned by Bethesda! ), doesn’t really surprise me all that much.

    They’ve become ever more greedy and desperate, feeling they deserve more, without stepping their game up.

    A sad day in gaming history, as in my mind this underlines the whole idea of id Software as sinking away in commercial mud as a creative company, instead of continuing their brave conquest searching for the final frontier in computer games.

  15. Gap Gen says:

    “And we’ve really gotten more IPs than we’ve been able to take advantage of. “
    ““We can build the pipeline and have a regular pipeline of releases.””

    Gnnrk.

  16. Bhazor says:

    Well I didn’t see that coming.

    But maybe this will get ID to pick up the pace a bit. Theres little denying Carmack’s engine making abilities but they seem almost as slow as Valve at making the damn game. ID tends to rely too much on remakes and phone conversions of their 15 year old games. Here’s hoping an overlord will get those code monkeys working.

  17. Erlam says:

    “I really liked Quake IV.

    Stop looking at me like that!”

    I liked it a lot too, actually. I found it was a quality shooter that harkened back to the days of “kill the boss by circle-strafing, then kill him again — only there are two!” instead of the new “boss jumps around, get on his back and kill him in his weak spot which is a giant glowing orb.”

  18. Brother None says:

    I really think people should just ignore the mention of Bethesda. It’s just another studio ZeniMax also owns, and it’s irrelevant to id software.

    For them, I just hope it enables them to produce more games, and perhaps with more freedom.

  19. PHeMoX says:

    @Wilson: Raven made a lot of great games, they’ve mainly were the ones who’ve always managed to take best use of id Software’s engines. I definitely agree they haven’t been able to keep their high standards the last few games, but I’ve got a feeling it’s not really them to blame there. (Raven’s not id Software though… like Apogee isn’t 3DRealms.)

  20. Levictus says:

    Would anyone else be interested in playing a Doom spin-off that would feature RPG element ala Bloodlines? I am huge fan of anything Bloodlines-like (not many of those kind of games around it seems) but I can see veteran player getting pissed off, I guess that why you can have a spin-off.

  21. Walsh says:

    I really think people should just ignore the mention of Bethesda. It’s just another studio ZeniMax also owns, and it’s irrelevant to id software.

    Zenimax stated that Bethesda will team with and provide support to id.

  22. SwiftRanger says:

    So, this means we’ll hear Patrick Stewart and Wonder Woman in Doom 4?

  23. Brother None says:

    Zenimax stated that Bethesda will team with and provide support to id.

    Bethesda will publish their games, yes, I saw that, and I assume they’ll work together as publishers and developers are apt to. I saw no mention of anything other than publisher support, and that’s not relevant to Bethesda the development studio

    Though I’ll admit Bethesda has a terrible track record as a publisher (underpublicity for the Cthulhu title, mismanaging the Star Trek titles)

  24. Bhazor says:

    Reply to Levictus

    Actually there was a mobile phone game that was essentialy a Doom RPG. It was really good actually and had a surprising amount of humour and post modern touches.

    http://www.doomrpg.com/n.x/Doom%20RPG/Home

  25. lumpi says:

    So who owns who now? WTF is “Zenimax Media”?

    I’m confused.

    Please tell me there is no instance that can force id “to focus on new, exciting entertainment experiences on the XBox360 and regular DLC for tripple-A products like Wolfenstein(TM), Doom(TM) and Quake Wars(TM)”.

    *Shivers*

  26. NoRCoN says:

    I have two words:

    Holy crap!

  27. Biz says:

    id sold out…

    I thought that was impossible.

    anyways this is nothing short of fantastic for bethesda

    and i’m sure it’s financially good for id, but what about the fans of hardcore FPS…

  28. Acosta says:

    Being positive, maybe Bethesda will benefit from having the ID propietary engine in house. And I’m pretty sure ID will benefit from the contacts and financial support from Zenimax.

    I still feel a bit sad of seeing them fail with their independency model. It show how pivotal has became publishers for modern videogames. From the declarations of Todd and Carmacks it looks like a “if you can’t beat them, join them” situation. I really hope it works well for them.

  29. n1ch0las says:

    The whole situation ultimately leaves a strange taste. The reason Romero was seen ‘unfit’ for id software back in the glory days was – at least supposedly – that he wanted to expand too much in contrast to Carmack who wanted to keep the team small and manageable with strong focus to one product at a time. The new face of id is a huge studio on comparison to the past, running multiple projects, based on – potentially – patented technology. Carmack still goes about old-fashioned small hacking business (the iPhone stuff) while continuing to break some ground here and there (MegaTexture is really technically pushing some barriers), but control over the ‘content’ and ‘soul’ of the upcoming games seems to be wavering.

    I don’t expect anyone to get creative control over id in the near future, I just hope they don’t lose the style they themselves pioneered and developed. I love all of their games more or less, I have even finished Quake 4 twice :D

    Ah, also id suggesting that Raven has somewhat ‘harmed’ their IPs is pretty ungrateful. The Heretics and Hexens and SoF’s may have not all been excellent, but they marketed id’s tech pretty well, imho…

  30. Zeus says:

    “Which means Raven’s often depressingly workmanlike hands will no longer be allowed to feel up Quake and Wolfenstein”

    Haha, oh that’s nasty. Great job!

  31. Radiant says:

    @biz
    This does seem like a proper “take the money and run” move from Id.
    Hopefully Rage gets out ok but to be honest Id have been sort of left behind of late in the modern shooter stakes.
    The awesome Quake Live setup aside.

  32. Velvet Fist, Iron Glove says:

    I fully expect to hear tomorrow that Valve has been bought by Nintendo. And that 3DRealms has released DNF.

    In other words, I’m quite surprised by this announcement. I’d expect the worst, but then id hasn’t come out with any great games for quite some time, so maybe things can improve.

  33. Patrick says:

    Zenimax Media is the shell company that has owned Bethesda since 2000 or so. They needed to become a public company to attract investors because Morrowind had become so expensive (going for the best graphics at the time).

    This coincides pretty well with all of the talent leaving Bethesda like Ken Rolson and Chris Weaver, who created Arena, Daggerfall, and the whole TES universe, and replacing with Todd Howard and his ilk, who are adept at fucking up the IP of others (but making it pretty!).

  34. Brother None says:

    Being positive, maybe Bethesda will benefit from having the ID propietary engine in house.

    Haw. Just imagine Bethesda – considering their track record with a tame engine like Gamebryo – trying to handle id Engine 5. Hilarity ensues. CTD hilarity. Much of it.

  35. Tei says:

    “And we’ve really gotten more IPs than we’ve been able to take advantage of.”

    Theres a bad way to read it, and a good way. The good way is: You are doing good, continue!. The bad way is: You are doing good, now stop, and recicle your stuff forever.
    Hope the right one is the good way.

  36. Elman says:

    Well, Bethesda did release Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth back in the day. Sure, they didn’t develop it, and it was mostly survival-horror-ish (You play for hours before you get your first gun. And the shooter levels are the worst).

    But hey, it existed.

  37. MA6200 says:

    Might not be a bad thing at all. Who knows, Bethesda’s next game may have decent animations and more than 4 voice actors as a result!

  38. Black Mamba says:

    Did not see that coming but I’m happy that it was those two companies that merged as Bethesda and iD are old school PC gaming studios and it seems like a good match.

  39. Forceflow says:

    That screenshot mockup works surprisingly well.

  40. Smurfy says:

    Fer chrissakes, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO’S HEARD OF ZENIMAX BEFORE???. All the headlines say “Bethesda owner buys id” but… Bethesda buys id? That’s just a lie.

  41. drewski says:

    @ Patrick – given Ken Rolson led the design for Oblivion, seems a little revisionist not to give him plenty of the credit for the way the Elder Scrolls series has turned out/is turning out. Todd Howard may be a populist, but Oblivion wasn’t just his baby.

  42. SteveHatesYou says:

    Well, Bethesda could use a hand with their technology.

    But I wonder how long Carmack will be willing to work for somebody else? He seems like the type that would leave the instant somebody tried to force him to work on something he wasn’t interested in. And games really only seem to be a partial interest for him, what with him spending so much time on his fancy rockets.

  43. nakke says:

    Silly id, Bethesda already made Oblivion with guns

  44. Sinnerman says:

    As well as Doom RPG there is DoomRL for people who like ASCII graphics and don’t want to mess around with games on those wireless telephony devices.

    http://doom.chaosforge.org/

  45. Blah says:

    @Quake IV out of closeters

    It was an enjoyable summer blockbuster type experience and I liked it as well.

  46. SirKicksalot says:

    Real id fans weren’t diasppointed with Quake IV. Only the mindless multiplayer drones were.

  47. Gosh says:

    @Smurfy

    Zenimax sounds like some “male enhancement” drug.

  48. Alex says:

    Dead Fish said:

    Yes, interesting times.

    Fallout 4 + id Tech 5, please.

    Rebrand Rage and you’re halfway there!

  49. Guhndahb says:

    If Zenimax is intending to merge Beth and id, then I consider this a bad thing. But I haven’t read much to make me think that yet (except that odd comment about Beth and Zenimax by Carmack).

    If such a merge were to become true, however, I worry more about the changes to Bethesda’s games than I do about id, even if they are far from perfect. I pretty much loathed Doom 3 and RtCW. Quake 4 was a little better but forgettable. Carmack may be a great technology developer, but whatever part of him that said “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important” is loathsome to me. That was a long time ago, I hope he’s changed his mind. But even so, I don’t like the typically brain-dead game design in id games even if it can be fun from time to time.

    I’d certainly hate to see Bethesda give up on Gamebryo. Modding is central to Beth’s games – I otherwise find them unplayable – and, while id’s games are moddable, they are not moddable in such a way that you can pick and choose mods from 25 sources and get them to mesh together easily, and add and remove them within a single play through.

    Ah well, there’s too little information on this so far. The Bioware/Mythic combo is much more alarming to me.

  50. Biz says:

    “Real id fans weren’t diasppointed with Quake IV. Only the mindless multiplayer drones were.”

    those “mindless multiplayer drones” are real id fans
    quake 3 arena was an id game

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