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Erk - Bethesda's Masters Buy id. Bethidsda?

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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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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