|Fate||Purchased by The Learning Company|
|Successor(s)||The Learning Company|
San Rafael, California
|Key people||Doug Carlston
Cathy Carlston Brisbois
|Products||Computer software and video games|
Brøderbund Software, Inc. was an American maker of video games, educational software and The Print Shop productivity tools. It was best known as the original creator and publisher of the Carmen Sandiego games. The company was founded in Eugene, Oregon, but moved to San Rafael, California, and later to Novato, California. Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998.
Brøderbund was founded by brothers Doug and Gary Carlston in 1980 for the purpose of marketing Galactic Empire, a video game that Doug Carlston had created in 1979. Their sister, Cathy, joined the company a year later. Before founding the company, Doug was a lawyer and Gary had held a number of jobs, including teaching Swedish at an American college. Galactic Empire had many names taken from African languages; a group of merchants was named Broederbond, Afrikaans for "association of brothers". To emphasize its family origin while avoiding a connection with the white-supremacist South African organization of the same name, the Carlstons altered the spelling when naming their company "Brøderbund".
In 1984, Brøderbund took over the assets of the well-regarded but financially troubled Synapse Software. Although intending to keep it running as a business, they were unable to make money from Synapse's products, and closed it down after a year. Brøderbund's "Print Shop" software produced signs and greeting cards, running on Apple computers. Broderbund started discussions with Unison World about creating a version that would run on IBM Personal Computers. The two companies could not agree on a contract, but Unison World went ahead and developed an IBM PC product with similar function and a similar user interface. Broderbund sued for infringement of their copyright. Broderbund v. Unison (1986) became a landmark case in establishing that the look and feel of a software product could be subject to copyright protection.
Sierra On-Line and Brøderbund ended merger discussions in March 1991. Brøderbund became a public company in November 1991; their NASDAQ symbol, no longer operative, was BROD. Their stock price and market capitalization climbed steadily to a maximum of nearly US$80/share in late 1995, and then fell steadily in the face of continued losses for a number of years.
Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998 for about US$420 million in stock. Brøderbund had initially attempted to purchase the original The Learning Company in 1995, but was outbid by Softkey, who purchased The Learning Company for $606 million in cash and then adopted its name. The Learning Company then bought Brøderbund in 1998 and in a move to rationalize costs, The Learning Company promptly terminated 500 employees at Brøderbund the same year, representing 42% of the company's workforce. Then in 1999 the combined company was bought by Mattel for $3.6 billion. Mattel reeled from the financial impact of this transaction, and Jill Barad, the CEO, ended up being forced out in a climate of investor outrage. Mattel then gave away The Learning Company in September 2000 to Gores Technology Group, a private acquisitions firm, for a share of whatever Gores could obtain by selling the company. In 2001, Gores sold The Learning Company's entertainment holdings to Ubisoft, and most of the other holdings, including the Brøderbund name, to Irish company Riverdeep. Many of Brøderbund's games, such as the Myst series, are published by Ubisoft.
Broderbund, with an "o" instead of the "ø" character, is now the brand name for Riverdeep's graphic design, productivity, and edutainment titles such as The Print Shop, Carmen Sandiego, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, the Living Books series, and Reader Rabbit titles, in addition to publishing software for other companies, notably Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm.
The Broderbund line of products is published by Encore, Inc under license from Riverdeep. Under the terms of the agreement Encore now manages the Broderbund family of products as well as Broderbund’s direct to consumer business. In May 2010 Encore acquired the assets of Punch! Software
Brøderbund scored an early hit with the game Galactic Empire, written by Doug Carlston for the TRS-80. The company went on to become a powerhouse in the educational and entertainment software markets with titles like Fantavision, Choplifter, Apple Panic, Lode Runner, Karateka, Wings of Fury, Prince of Persia, The Battle of Olympus, In the 1st Degree, The Last Express, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, The Guardian Legend, and Myst, which stayed the highest grossing home video game for years. The company's first title for the Apple II, Tank Command, was written by the third Carlston brother, Professor Donal Carlston
Brøderbund was easily one of the most dominant publishers in the computer market of the 1980s, having released video games for virtually all major computer systems in the United States. This included not only the IBM PC-DOS personal computer, but also the leading home computers from the decade, notably the TRS-80, the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the Atari 8-bit and the Amiga. The company even went on licensing some of its titles to British and Japanese companies who ported Brøderbund's games to the different home computers of these regions, such as the Amstrad CPC, the MSX and the ZX Spectrum.
Brøderbund published the Print Shop series of desktop publishing making programs, Family Tree Maker (a genealogy program supported by hundreds of CDs of public genealogy data) and 3D Home Architect, a program for designing and visualizing family homes. By the end of the 1980s, games represented only a few percent of Brøderbund's annual sales, which by then were heavily focused in the productivity arena and early education and learning areas.
Just before being acquired by The Learning Company, Brøderbund spun off its Living Books series by forming a joint venture with Random House Publishing. Despite the success and quality of the Living Books series, the joint venture was marginally successful and was dissolved with The Learning Company deal.
For a brief time, Brøderbund was involved in the video game console market when it published a few games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) through its New Ventures Division. All of Broderbund's games for the NES, including the port of its own franchises Lode Runner, Spelunker and Raid on Bungeling Bay, were developed by third-party Japanese companies. Brøderbund published some titles that were produced by companies that didn't have a North American subsidiary, such as Compile's The Guardian Legend, Imagineer's The Battle of Olympus, and Legacy of the Wizard, the fourth installment in Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer series. Brøderbund also developed and marketed an ill-fated motion sensitive NES controller device called the U-Force, which was operated without direct physical contact between the player and the device. In 1990, Brøderbund sold its New Ventures Division, including manufacturing equipment, inventory, and assets, to then-fledgling company THQ.
Brøderbund briefly had a board game division, which published Don Carlston's Personal Preference, along with several board game versions of its video games.
Etymology and pronunciation
The word "brøderbund" is not an actual word in any language, but is a somewhat loose translation of "band of brothers" into a mixture of Danish, German, and Swedish. The "ø" in "Brøderbund" was used partially as a play on the Norwegian/Danish letter ø, but was mainly referencing the slashed zero found in mainframes, terminals and early personal computers. The three crowns above the logo are also a reference to the lesser national coat of arms of Sweden.
When the company began in 1980, the headquarters were in Eugene, Oregon. The company moved its offices to Marin County, California before the end of its third year of existence. Before its dissolution, its headquarters were in Novato, California.
- Bungeling Empire — a fictional empire created by Brøderbund to provide a villain for their more action-oriented games
- Creative Wonders
- Lauren Elliott — co-creator of Carmen Sandiego
- Red Orb Entertainment — Broderbund's game publishing division, later supported by Mindscape
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