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|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||1986Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.in|
|Headquarters||Rockville, Maryland, U.S.|
|Vlatko Andonov (President)|
|Products||List of Bethesda Softworks video games|
|Divisions||Bethesda Game Studios|
Bethesda Softworks LLC is an American video game publisher based in Rockville, Maryland. The company was founded by Christopher Weaver in 1986 as a division of Media Technology Limited, and in 1999 became a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media. In its first fifteen years, it was a video game developer and self-published its titles. In 2001, Bethesda spun off its own in-house development team into Bethesda Game Studios, and Bethesda Softworks became a publisher only. It currently also publishes games by ZeniMax Online Studios, id Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks and BattleCry Studios.
Bethesda Softworks was founded by Weaver in Bethesda, Maryland in 1986 as a division of Media Technology Limited, an engineering research and development firm founded by members of the Architecture Machine Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), of which Weaver was founder and CEO.
President of Bethesda, Vlatko Andonov, recalls that Weaver had originally wanted to call the company "Softworks", but found the name taken. "So, our founder, sitting at his kitchen table in Bethesda decided after laborious thought to add Bethesda to Softworks and there you have it!"
Weaver changed the company from a committee-run organization to one that followed his vision. Bethesda raised no outside funding; Weaver said all money invested into the company until 1999 was his own. Prior to creating Bethesda, Weaver had worked at MIT on "speech parsers, graphic interface and synthesized worlds - what people now call virtual reality."
He created Bethesda "to see if the PC market was a viable place to develop games". His executive role and personal investment let the company become "a boutique house", which "kept rewriting rules and inventing new things." Weaver, in the opinion of journalist Joe Blancato, was a man "used to having good ideas.
Bethesda Softworks is credited with the creation of the first physics-based sports simulation, Gridiron!, in 1986 for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and Commodore 64/128. Early games scored respectably in the gaming press. Electronic Arts was working on the first John Madden Football at the time, and hired Bethesda to help finish developing it. At the same time, they acquired distribution rights for future versions of Gridiron!. The next year, after no new cross-console version of Gridiron! had been released, Bethesda stopped work on the project and sued EA for USD$7.3 million, claiming EA halted the release while incorporating many of its elements into Madden.
In 1990, the company moved from Bethesda to Rockville, Maryland.
It is best known for its next major project, The Elder Scrolls RPG series, based on the original programming of Julian Lefay. The first chapter of the series, entitled The Elder Scrolls: Arena, was released in 1994. Since that time, numerous other chapters have been released. Bethesda Softworks is also known for publishing titles based upon popular movie franchises, including The Terminator, Star Trek and Pirates of the Caribbean.
In 1995, Bethesda Softworks acquired the development studio Flashpoint Productions, and its founder, Brent Erickson, became the Development Director of Media Technology's West Coast division, MediaTech West. The division produced several titles including Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples, Noctropolis and later the Burnout Championship Drag Racing series.
In 1997, Bethesda acquired XL Translab, a graphics firm that got its start in Catholic University's School of Architecture. XL eventually moved into a new center in Bethesda Softworks' Rockville headquarters. XL Translab has previously done work for PBS as well as television commercials for Fortune 500 companies.
In 1997 and 1998, Bethesda released two The Elder Scrolls expansions based on Daggerfall's code—Battlespire and Redguard—neither of which enjoyed the success of Daggerfall and Arena. The downturn in sales was not limited just to The Elder Scrolls franchise, and the company considered filing for bankruptcy as a result.
In 1999, Weaver and Robert A. Altman formed a new parent company for Bethesda Softworks known as ZeniMax Media. In an interview with Edge, he described the company as being a top-level administrative structure rather than a "parent company" for its holdings, explaining that "ZeniMax and Bethesda for all intents and purposes are one thing. Bethesda has no accounting department, we have no finance, we have no legal, our legal department [and] our financial department is ZeniMax, we all operate as one unit."
In 2001, Bethesda Game Studios was established, changing Bethesda Softworks to being a publishing brand of ZeniMax Media.
In 2002, Weaver stopped being employed by ZeniMax. He later filed a lawsuit against ZeniMax, claiming he was ousted by his new business partners after giving them access to his brand and was owed $1.2 million in severance pay. ZeniMax filed counterclaims and moved to dismiss the case, claiming Weaver had gone through emails of other employees to find evidence. This dismissal was later vacated on appeal, and the parties settled out of court. Weaver remained a major shareholder in the company: as of 2007, he said that he still owned 33% of ZeniMax's stock. It is unknown how much stock Weaver has in ZeniMax today, as Providence Equity bought 25% of ZeniMax's stock in late 2007, and an additional stake in 2010.
In 2004, the Fallout franchise was acquired by Bethesda Softworks from Interplay Productions and the development of Fallout 3 was handed over to Bethesda Game Studios. Fallout 3 was released on October 28, 2008. Five downloadable content packs for Fallout 3 were released in the year following its release—Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta. Obsidian Entertainment's new Fallout title, Fallout: New Vegas was published in 2010. Fallout 4 was released on November 10, 2015.
Between 2007 and 2010, Bethesda raised $450M in new capital from Providence Equity Partners to fund expansion efforts. In February 2008, the company opened a European publishing arm in London, named ZeniMax Europe, to distribute titles throughout UK/EMEA territories under the Bethesda Softworks brand. This was followed in by opening publishing offices in Tokyo, Frankfurt, Paris, Benelux, Hong Kong and Sydney in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 respectively.
On June 24, 2009, ZeniMax acquired id Software, whose titles, including Rage, would be published by Bethesda Softworks. Between 2009 and 2012, the company expanded publishing operations, with games from independent third party developers such as Rebellion Developments's Rogue Warrior, Artificial Mind and Movement's Wet, Splash Damage's Brink, and inXile's Hunted: The Demon's Forge.
I think all of the stuff that you've heard at this point has been from one side of this, and it's been somebody putting spin on it, like, 'here's what happened.' No, that's your version of what you think happened. I haven't heard from anybody yet that actually sat in the room. There are quite a few folks at Human Head that I really like. Chris Rhinehart is one of the nicest guys I have ever met in this industry. He's somebody I would consider a friend. I love hanging out with him. This isn't anything to do with anything personal. I love that guy. I like a lot of the folks up there. It just has to do more with what the product looks like and if it's good enough. As we said in our last update, it's not good enough. It's not where it needs to be. When we have more info than that, we'll let you know.