ZeniMax buys maker of Doom games

Id Software, creator of the 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 series of role-playing games.

In a statement released Wednesday, ZeniMax said the development process at Id Software would remain untouched.

Id will continue to operate as a studio under the direction of founder John Carmack. No changes will be made in the operations of Id’s game development. All the Id principals have signed long-term employment contracts, ensuring that they will continue in their roles developing games at the studio.


ZeniMax, founded in 1999, bought the Fallout franchise from Interplay Entertainment in 2004.

It then created Fallout 3, an action role-playing game that became 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, 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 Robert Altman, ZeniMax’s founder and chief executive, 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, game 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 turned down many offers from large publishers over the years.

“We would be just one of many studios at an Activision or an [Electronic Arts],” he said. “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.”

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

Carmack, who remains chief technology officer at Id, said that rather than shrink payroll as many companies do after being sold, Id would expand its team from 100 developers to as many as 130 some time next year so the studio could 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.”