In a recent interview with Eurogamer, id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead declared that the "id Tech 5" engine, currently being used for id's next two games, Rage and Doom 4, will not be sold to licensees as their previous engines were, and in fact will be reserved for use exclusively in games published by ZeniMax and Bethesda Softworks.
"It's going to be used within ZeniMax, so we're not going to license it to external parties.
It's like, look, this is a competitive advantage and we want to keep it within games we publish - not necessarily exclusively to id or id titles, but if you're going to make a game with id Tech 5 then it needs to be published by Bethesda, which I think is a fair thing."
This is something of a surprise move, to be sure, since id has ever been the stalwart industry 3D engine pioneer. Their Doom engine was, for a time, the only FPS engine being used during the mid-1990's; and their Quake, Quake 2 and Quake 3 engines saw widespread licensing at the time of their popularity.
Conversely, id's Doom 3 engine was not acquired by nearly as many developers, while shortly thereafter, Epic Games' Unreal Engines 2 and 3 went on to enjoy mass license penetration success at levels never seen before in the industry.
"I think that [Epic] made a strategic choice to focus on the middleware service stuff, and we never pretended to be focused on technology licensing.
It was that we made the technology for our games, and the philosophy was that with the one team the technology was wasted if you're just using it on one game, so we wanted to be able to license it out to a small number of developers.
Epic's made a good business out of that so kudos to them, but I wouldn't change the way we've done things."
For id to restrict the engine's availability to Bethesda-published titles only, they have potentially worked themselves out of a lucrative line of profit. However, I strongly doubt it was a decision made by id - Bethesda has too much to gain in this arrangement.
For Bethesda and ZeniMax, this is a win-win scenario. By offering id Tech 5 as leverage, they stand to attract a lot of attention from developers by having something substantial to offer along with just publishing power. Additionally, by tying the engine with their publishing deals, they can also reject applications to use the engine from applicants they feel won't produce a lucrative enough product for them to publish, thereby ensuring that the engine will always be presented in the best possible light, thus gaining more interest from those developers currently not on board.
One would only hope Bethesda has compensated id for all that potential engine license revenue id Tech 5 would stand to rake in if they were still selling the license themselves.
Do you think id is doing the right thing here?