Bethesda Softworks

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Bethesda Softworks, LLC
Industry Video game industry
Founded 1986; 30 years ago (1986) in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Founder Christopher Weaver
Headquarters Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
Area served
Key people
  • Vlatko Andonov (president)
  • Todd Vaughn (VP, development)
  • Pete Hines (VP, PR & Marketing)
  • Ron Seger (VP, Sales)
Products List of Bethesda Softworks video games
  • Media Technology Limited (1994–1999)
  • ZeniMax Media (1999–present)
Divisions Bethesda Game Studios

Bethesda Softworks, LLC is an American video game publisher. A subsidiary of ZeniMax Media, the company was originally based in Bethesda, Maryland,[1] and eventually moved to their current location in Rockville, Maryland. The company's products consist of games in role-playing, racing, simulation, and sports.


Company name and origins[edit]

Bethesda Softworks was founded in 1986 by Christopher Weaver in Bethesda, Maryland, and moved to Rockville, Maryland in 1990.

Christopher Weaver, company President Vlatko Andonov recalls, 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!"[2]

The company's founder, Chris Weaver, had, by Arena's release, transformed the company from a committee-run organization to one run which had to follow "a single person's vision": his. "For 18 years," Weaver stated, "from 1981 through 1999, all the money that was invested in the company was my own." Prior to creating Bethesda, Weaver had worked at MIT on "speech parsers, graphic interface and synthesized worlds - what people now call virtual reality...bleeding edge stuff." He had worked in news broadcast directing at NBC and as the Director of Technology Forecasting for ABC, eventually becoming Chief Engineer to the United States House Energy Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.[3][4]

He had created Bethesda "to see if the PC market was a viable place to develop games". The executive command and personal investment allotted to himself allowed the company to become, in Weaver's words, "a boutique house", a 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.[3]

1986–1999: Gridiron!, Electronic Arts lawsuit, Media Technology acquisition, The Elder Scrolls[edit]

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.[5]

Electronic Arts was so impressed with Gridiron! that they hired Bethesda to develop the first John Madden Football.[3] Bethesda eventually decided to sue EA in 1987 for USD$7.3 million, claiming that the company halted cross-console release of Gridiron! after incorporating many of its elements into their own Madden NFL.[6]

The company is best known for creating The Elder Scrolls RPG series, based upon 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. The game has four direct sequels Daggerfall (1996), Morrowind (2002), Oblivion (2006) and Skyrim (2011), along with three spin-offs Battlespire (1997), Redguard (1998), and The Elder Scrolls Travels series.

In 1994, the company became known as the "entertainment software division" of Media Technology Limited, an international engineering research and development firm founded by members of the Architecture Machine Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), of which Christopher Weaver was CEO.[7][8][9][10]

In 1995, Bethesda Softworks acquired the development studio Flashpoint Productions and its founder, Brent Erickson, became the West Coast Development Director of Media Technology, 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[11][12][10]

In 1997,The Company 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.[13]

1999–present: ZeniMax Media acquisition, Fallout, The New Future[edit]

In 1999, Bethesda Softworks and it's divisions were acquired by ZeniMax Media[14] when Media Technology Limited sold its stock to get additional development funds. Christopher Weaver and Robert A. Altman were the Co-Founders of the successor company.[9]

In 2001 Bethesda Softworks became a publisher only and the newly formed Bethesda Game Studios became the developer of their games.[9]

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.

Since the influx of capital from Providence Equity Partners in 2007[15] as well as other investors the following year,[16] Bethesda Softworks and its Parent Company ZeniMax Media have been rapidly expanding.

In February 2008,The Company opened a European Publishing arm in London,ZeniMax Europe to publish titles throughout UK/EMEA territories under the Bethesda Softworks brand.[17]This was followed in by opening publishing offices in Tokyo,Frankfurt,Paris,Benelux,Hong Kong and Sydney in 2008,2010,2012 and 2013 respectively.[18][19][20][21][22]

On June 24, 2009, Bethesda's parent company, ZeniMax Media, acquired id Software, whose titles, including Rage, would be published by Bethesda Softworks.[23]

Games published[edit]

1980s and 1990s[edit]




Studio acquisition and management practices[edit]

Bethesda Softworks and its Parent company ZeniMax Media has been the subject of Controversies through its long year history.

  • In 2001 Bethesda Softworks published Echelon in the United States, a video game developed by Russian developers Madia.The developers stated that Bethesda didnt pay a single cent from boxed sales of the game ,as was specified in the contract according to Madia.The Developers wrote an open letter to Bethesda in which they have detailed the whole affair but Bethesda still refused to pay.Madia decided not to take it to court because battling in american courts is an expensive time consuming affair.Pete Hines VP of PR at Bethesda later stated that Madia presented misleading allegations about Bethesda's role as publisher of Echelon in North America,and that Bethesda has no contractual obligations to Madia.[24][25]
  • Chris Avellone,former lead creative designer at Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian Entertainment, has claimed that the company did not receive a unspecified bonus payment for its work on New Vegas from Bethesda because it did not garner a Metacritic score above 85%,the game got 84% on Metacritic.[26]
  • Bethesda and ZeniMax have been accused of attemping a failed hostile acquisition of Human Head Studios as well as a successful hostile acquisition of Arkane Studios prior to that.[27]According to a report from IGN Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax started purposefully failing Human Head’s project milestones so that they wouldn’t get paid and so that ZeniMax could then swoop in and buy the company at a reduced rate.ZeniMax have been accused of doing the exact same thing with Arkane Studios although in Arkane's case they allegedly gave in and allowed themselves to be bought.[28]The failed hostile acquisition of Human Head Studios is what led to cancellation of Human Head's Prey 2 according to the report.Bethesda's Pete Hines replied to the accusations buy saying the following.[29]

“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.”


  • In September 2009,Bethesda Softworks sued Interplay Entertainment over Fallout Trademark Infringement.[30]After a long lengthy legal battle the lawsuit was settled in January 2012, with Interplay receiving $2 million USD while Bethesda Softworks gaining the right to develop a Fallout MMO as well as the rights to Fallout Tactics, Fallout and Fallout 2 after December 31, 2013.[31]
  • In September 2011,ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, filed a lawsuit against Mojang ,claiming that Mojang's planned trademark of the title, Scrolls, infringed upon Bethesda's trademark of The Elder Scrolls series.[32]On 18 October, Markus Persson announced that Mojang had won the interim injunction, but that Bethesda still had the option to file an appeal.[33]In March 2012, Mojang and Bethesda reached a settlement, in which Mojang would not trademark Scrolls, but Bethesda would not contest Mojang's naming of Scrolls, so long as it would not be a direct competitor against The Elder Scrolls.[34]


  1. ^ "Company Profile". ZeniMax Media. Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2015. 
  2. ^ Keefer, John (March 31, 2006). "GameSpy Retro: Developer Origins". GameSpy. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c "Bethesda:The Right Direction". The Escapist. February 6, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Visiting Scholars and Postdocs". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Watch the graphics puck up". Amiga Computing, Volume 2, number 4, September 1989, p.p.18-19. September 1989. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  6. ^ "LATE NEWS FLASHES". September 1988. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Bethesda Softworks Unveils Racing Enthusiasts' Dream Site". July 14, 1997. Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Fundamentals of Game Design". Autor Ernest Adams. Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c "Bethesda Softworks LLC". MobyGames. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "Bethesda Softworks People". July 25, 2016. Archived from the original on July 25, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  11. ^ Böke, Ingmar (October 14, 2015). "Brent Erickson Noctropolis Interview". Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  12. ^ Brady, Scott (November 12, 1998). "Noctropolis Interview with Shaun Mitchell". Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  13. ^ "ThunderWave makes a big splash at Getty Center". Washington Business Journal. December 22, 1997. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Pete Hines on Bethesda's past, present and future". Edge. July 19, 2011. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  15. ^ "ZeniMax Media Receives $300 Million Investment from Providence Equity Partners" (PDF). Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  16. ^ "ZeniMax Media raises $9.9 million from some big names". VentureBeat. May 30, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  17. ^ "ZeniMax Media Opens London Office". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  18. ^ "ZeniMax Media Opens Tokyo office". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Bethesda Opens New Offices In Germany And France". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Bethesda in Benelux". September 7, 2010. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  21. ^ "ZeniMax Asia Pacific Limited". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Bethesda opens Australian office". CNET. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  23. ^ "ZeniMax Media Acquires id Software". June 24, 2009. Retrieved July 17, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Open Letter to Bethesda Softworks". November 18, 2001. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Bethesda Open Letter Follow-up". November 20, 2001. 
  26. ^ "Obsidian Fallout New Vegas deal with Bethesda meant bonus payment only with 85+ Metacritic". Eurogamer. March 15, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Bethesda may be planning Prey 2 reveal at E3". May 25, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  28. ^ "What Went Wrong with Human Heads Prey 2". IGN. June 5, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Bethesda Explains Prey 2 Silence". IGN. June 18, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Bethesda Sues Interplay Over Fallout Trademark Infringement". Kotaku. September 11, 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Fallout MMO Rights Officially Restored to Bethesda". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  32. ^ Chalk, Andy (September 27, 2011). "Mojang and Bethesda Are Going to Court". Escapist Magazine. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  33. ^ Goldfarb, Andrew (27 October 2011). "Notch Wins First Round Against Bethesda". IGN. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  34. ^ Graft, Kris (March 11, 2012). "Bethesda, Mojang settle 'Scrolls' trademark lawsuit". Gamasutra. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 

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