id: Why We Sold To ZeniMax

In an interview with Kotaku, id's John Carmack and Todd Hollenshead explained how changing circumstances with Activision and other studios spurred id's sale to Bethesda parent ZeniMax.

id Software is still a development studio that commands respect, but it's one that had found itself not quite fitting in of late, its principals told us during a phone interview tied to the announcement of the company's sale to ZeniMax.

One of the problems lately, Carmack told Kotaku, is that id just wasn't a good fit with big publishers these days. "As we were shopping Rage and Doom and upcoming stuff, talking about all of that, we were getting a pretty consistent line from all the publishers," he said. "They were willing to continue to fund our working with partner companies for all of these but pretty much ever publisher said, ‘Well, it would be worth much more to us if you would grow your studio and do more of your own work internally. That's why we already started to staff up to do Doom 4 internally. So things were already moving in that direction."

Carmack spoke specifically of Activision, where id's games such as the upcoming Wolfenstein (developed in partnership with Raven), would be published under the same label as works from Activision's internal studios, like Call of Duty and Modern Warfare studios Treyarch and Infinity Ward. "Going back to a much earlier time," Carmack said, "We were just Activision's shooter shop. We did the FPSes there. There was no conflict, and that was great. But they brought on their own internal studios and there's a very real conflict there between whether they want to put resources behind something they own the IP for and derive all the profit for versus something where they don't own the IP and they might feel like any effort they're putting into it isn't going into their value but somebody else's. That problem has grown over the years as budgets have increased."

Hollenshead told Kotaku that he found ZeniMax to have the closest match with id in terms of a philosophy on how to best make and sell games. It was a better fit, he said, than the studio's recent publishing partners Activision and EA.

What comes out of the deal is a stronger id, the men say. "Things aren't really going to be different in terms of what's going on at id," Hollenshead said. "We're not going to change the kinds of games we make…. It allows us to accelerate the growth of our internal studios, so we can focus on making all of our internal games as opposed to working with external partners where there has been a step down in quality… There will be more, better games from id. So if you're a fan of the company, then it is all upside and all things to look forward to."

Carmack's high on id even now, of course. He said the company just did a "first-look" event for upcoming EA-published, id-developed racing-FPS Rage last week and that it "went spectacularly."

Doom 4 will be published by ZeniMax/Bethesda. The Wolfenstein and Rage games being made under Activision and EA's publishing labels, respectively, will continue as such. But any sequels will be ZeniMax games.

And will there be any Bethesda-id crossover coming out of this? "The teams are very much separate," Carmack said. "There is a lot of mutual respect there. There's going to be a lot of communication and cross-pollination. I doubt there's going to be any technology shifts between the two companies, but there's certainly going to be cooperation. And I wouldn't be shocked to see some hints of different things crossing over in different ways. That's just the kind of stuff when you have lots of people who think everybody is working on cool stuff together."

Terms of today's deal were not disclosed. ZeniMax and id are private companies.