Bethesda has grown to be one of world’s most successful software developers / publishers. It was founded by Christopher Weaver in Bethesda, ,Maryland USA, initially as a division of Media Technology in 1986. In 1999 it became a subsidiary of Zenimax Media.
The company would develop and publish its own titles until 2001, when the development division was split off to form Bethesda Game Studios.
In 2020 Microsoft Studios bought the holding company Zenimax for $7.5 million dollars.
The first game that garnered attention for the company was Gridiron, the first physics-based sports title, released on the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1986.
Electronic Arts asked Bethesda to help finish the first John Madden Sports title, and EA acquired the rights to distribute any future versions of the Grid Iron series. After no cross-console release of Gridiron was released by EA, Bethesda stopped work on the project, and sued EA for halting the release, and incorporating their work into the next Madden title. The suit was settled out of court.
The company is best known for its Elder Scrolls series, the first title being released in 1994. As well as these games, the company produced games for film franchises, such as Star Trek & The Terminator in the early 1990s, and some of the Pirates of the Caribbean games in the 2000s.
Also in the 1990s, the company acquired studios such as Flashpoint Productions and XL Translab, the latter was a graphics company, and was moved to Bethesda’s HQ in Rockville.
By the mid 1990s, Bethesda was third behind LucasArts and Interplay in the list of the companies publishing on the PC platform.
A downturn in sales in 1999 nearly led to the company going bankrupt. Peter Hines was brought in to the marketing dept to turn around the company’s fortune.
In 2002 Weaver was no longer being paid by ZeniMax, and a lawsuit was launched by both sides, eventually settling out of court with Weaver retaining 33% of the company.
In 2007 Bethesda acquired the Fallout franchise from Interplay, releasing Fallout 3 in October 2008, and the follow up, Fallout 4 New Vegas in 2010, the company's biggest hit of this period was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Id Software was acquired by the company in 2009, future titles including Rage would be published by Bethesda. The company also increased it’s publishing activities from independent studios for titles like Rogue Warrior and Brink.
By the 2010 the company had published more hit games, Dishonored, and Wolfenstein, as well as their own titles The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as well as mobile games based on the Elder Scrolls titles.
In 2018 Fallout 76, the huge multiplayer game was launched, but was beset by problems, with stores heavily discounting the game shortly after release.
Doom, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Wolfenstein were all published to great acclaim on the Nintendo Switch. In 2019, Rage 2 and Doom Eternal were released.
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