ZeniMax Media

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ZeniMax Media Inc.
Private
IndustryVideo games
Founded1999; 21 years ago (1999)
Founders
Headquarters,
US
Key people
Total equityUS$2.5 billion (2016)
Number of employees
2300+ (2020)
Subsidiaries
Websitezenimax.com
Footnotes / references
[1][2]

ZeniMax Media Inc. is an American video game holding company based in Rockville, Maryland, and founded in 1999. The company owns id Software (developer of the Doom, Quake and Rage series), Arkane Studios (developer of Dishonored and Prey), MachineGames (developer of the Wolfenstein series),[3] Tango Gameworks (developer of The Evil Within),[4] publisher Bethesda Softworks with its Bethesda Game Studios (developer of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series) and ZeniMax Online Studios (developer of The Elder Scrolls Online). On September 21, 2020, Microsoft announced they entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media and all of its subsidiaries for $7.5 billion.

History[edit]

1999–2007: Early history, SBS investment, Providence investment[edit]

ZeniMax was founded in 1999 by Bethesda Softworks founder Christopher Weaver and Robert A. Altman.[5][6] It was established as a successor to Media Technology Limited, Bethesda's parent company at the time.

Weaver brought Altman on board as CEO, contributing his stock in Bethesda Softworks so that the new shell company, named ZeniMax Media, would be able to obtain funding. Weaver served initially as chief technology officer of the company from 1999 to 2002, then moved to a non-operational role in 2002. Weaver filed a lawsuit against ZeniMax in 2002 for breach of contract, claiming he was owed US$1.2 million in severance pay.[7] The suit was dismissed, with the court sanctioning Weaver, and finding that Weaver "acted willfully, wrongfully, and in bad faith."[8]

In 2000, SBS Broadcasting acquired a 12.5% stake as part of the partnership between the two companies. Its chairman and CEO, Harry Sloan, became a ZeniMax board member a year prior to that.[9] Sloan is a founding investor and board member of the company.[9] Other original board members included Les Moonves[10] as well as the now-deceased Robert Trump.[11] The year 2000 also saw Terry McAuliffe, George Mitchell, Dean Devlin and Jon Feltheimer join ZeniMax as company advisors.[12]

In 2004, ZeniMax acquired the Fallout franchise from Interplay Entertainment.[13] Bethesda's Todd Howard said in January 2007 that "We started work on Fallout 3 in late 2004 with a few people. We only had about 10 people on it until Oblivion wrapped (...)".[14] Fallout 3 was released in October 2008.

On August 1, 2007, ZeniMax announced the creation of ZeniMax Online Studios, a division headed by Matt Firor.[15] In 2012, the company announced that it was developing The Elder Scrolls Online, ultimately releasing it on April 4, 2014.

On October 30, 2007, ZeniMax announced that European broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 Media was intensifying its relationship with ZeniMax. It launched SevenGames.com, the international version of its German game platform, in December and work with ZeniMax to develop online games. ProSiebenSat.1 Media held a 9% stake in ZeniMax at the time through SBS Broadcasting, which it acquired the same year.[16][17][18] SBS Broadcasting previously acquired a 12.5% stake in ZeniMax in October 2000 as part of the partnership between the two companies at the time.[19][20] This included ZeniMax's e-Nexus Studios subsidiary, developing European entertainment portals and web sites for SBS,[21][22] as well as other stock purchase agreements between SBS and ZeniMax.[23]

As of 2007, Weaver held a 33% stake in the company.[7] In 2007, it was valued at $1.2 billion, when it raised $300 million from Providence Equity Partners in exchange for a 25% stake.[24][25][26] As of 2020, Weaver owned 'a pittance of the stock'.[27]

2007–2017: Expansion and Oculus lawsuit[edit]

ZeniMax's old logo

By October 2007, ZeniMax employee count rose to 200 employees.[28]

In September 2009, ZeniMax acquired rights to the Prey video game franchise.[29] In December 2009, ZeniMax acquired publishing rights to the id Software game Rage. The game was to be published by Electronic Arts.[30]

In 2010, Providence invested another $150 million for an undisclosed stake.[31][32] In May 2016, it was valued at $2.5 billion.[1]

By January 2011, ZeniMax employed 400 people in its Rockville headquarters.[33]

On March 3, 2011, ZeniMax announced a partnership with the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts to support its Interactive Media Division with a comprehensive educational program of guest lectures and internships.[34]

In May 2014, ZeniMax sent a letter to Facebook and Oculus VR asserting that any contributions that John Carmack made to the Oculus Rift project are the intellectual property of ZeniMax, stating that "ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings."

On May 21, 2014, ZeniMax filed a lawsuit against Oculus.[35][36] On June 25, 2014, Oculus filed an official response to the lawsuit. Oculus claimed ZeniMax was falsely claiming ownership to take advantage of the acquisition by Facebook. Oculus also claimed that the Oculus Rift did not share a single line of code or any technology with ZeniMax's code and technology.[37][38]

In August 2016, Prosieben sold its stake in ZeniMax for 30 million euros.[39][40]

On February 1, 2017, a Dallas, Texas jury awarded ZeniMax $500 million in their lawsuit against Oculus.[41] The jury found that Oculus did not misappropriate ZeniMax trade secrets, but had violated ZeniMax's copyrights and trademarks in addition to violating a non-disclosure agreement.[42]

2017–present: Microsoft acquisition[edit]

On September 21, 2020, Microsoft announced they entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media and all its subsidiaries for $7.5 billion.[2][43][44] The acquisition deal is expected to be finalized in the second half of 2021's fiscal year.[45] The deal promises to return more than six times Providence Equity's investment in the company.[28] Altman considered selling ZeniMax for several years and at one point was close to a deal with rival Electronic Arts.[46]

Subsidiaries[edit]

Defunct[edit]

References[edit]

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