John Romero discusses Sierra’s near acquisition of Id Software

Id Software "didn't seem stable and predictable"

During a talk at GDC 2022, Doom creator John Romero discussed the time when Sierra On-Line offered to purchase Id Software.

Romero’s panel was focused on the development of Wolfenstein 3D but briefly discussed an attractive offer presented by Sierra’s founder Ken Williams (via IGN).

Romero said that he had provided a copy of a Commander Keen game to Sierra’s Ken and Roberta Williams. The Id Software team were then invited to California to “talk business.”

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Id Software shared an early look at Wolfenstein 3D with Williams during the visit. Romero said that “after about 30 seconds of watching, he wanted to show me the new game they were working on, Red Baron Online. I was dumbfounded. Like, here’s the future, the start of a new genre: the first-person shooter. And Ken could not pay it any notice.”

Ultimate Doom
Ultimate Doom. Credit: id Software.

Williams then offered to buy Id Software for £1.9million ($2.5million USD). Id Software, a team of four at the time, were inclined to accept the offer but asked for £75,000 ($100,000 USD) in cash upfront. However, this was too much for Williams, who decided to pass on the offer.

PC Gamer managed to catch up with Ken and Roberta Williams at GDC and asked them about the proposed deal and if they had any regrets. “That I should have paid it?” said Ken. “Well, no. See, there was four guys in a van. I mean they just didn’t seem stable and predictable.”

“Yeah, That’s what it was,” Roberta added.

“Because I was gonna write this cheque to take them,” Ken went on to say, “but they weren’t very official at that point. If you’re gonna acquire a company you want to know the guys go to work every day and they have an office. I mean now you look back on it, it was kind of one of the dumber moves.”

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In other news, Tango Gameworks’ Shinji Mikami has said that he would like the studio to move away from horror games.

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