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Brøderbund Software was an American maker of computer games, educational software and The Print Shop productivity tools. The company was founded in Eugene, Oregon, but moved to San Rafael, California, and later to Novato, California.[1] Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998.[2]

Many of Broderbund's software titles, such as The Print Shop, PrintMaster and Mavis Beacon, are still published under the name "Broderbund" by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology.


Brøderbund scored an early hit with the game Galactic Empire, written by Doug Carlston for the TRS-80. The company went on to become a powerhouse in the educational and entertainment software markets with titles like Fantavision, Choplifter, Apple Panic, Lode Runner, Karateka, Wings of Fury, Prince of Persia, In the 1st Degree, The Last Express, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and Myst.

Brøderbund was easily one of the most dominant publishers in the computer market of the 1980s, having released video games for virtually all major computer systems in the United States. This included not only the popular IBM PC-DOS personal computer, but also the leading home computers from the decade, notably the TRS-80, the Apple II (for which their first title was Tank Command, written by the third Carlston brother, Professor Donal Carlston), the Commodore 64, the Atari 8-bit and the Amiga. The company even went on licensing some of its titles to European and Japanese companies who ported Brøderbund's games to the different home computers of these regions, such as the Amstrad CPC, the MSX and the ZX Spectrum.

Brøderbund also publishes the Print Shop series of desktop publishing making programs, Family Tree Maker (a genealogy program supported by hundreds of CDs of public genealogy data) and 3D Home Architect, a program for designing and visualizing family homes. In the late 1980s, games represented only a few percent of Brøderbund's annual sales, which by then were heavily focused in the productivity arena and early education and learning areas.

Just before being acquired by The Learning Company, Brøderbund spun off its popular Living Books series by forming a joint venture with Random House Publishing. Despite the success and quality of the Living Books series the joint venture was marginally successful and was dissolved with The Learning Company deal.

The company dabbled in publishing games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, including Lode Runner, Spelunker, and more. Despite being owned by the company, the titles were developed by third party Japanese companies.


In 1980, Brøderbund was founded by brothers Doug and Gary Carlston for the purpose of marketing games that Doug Carlston had created earlier.[3] Their sister, Cathy, joined the company a year later.

In 1984, Brøderbund took over the assets of Synapse Software. After financial troubles, the company shut down.[4] Brøderbund became a public company in November 1991,[5] and their stock price and market capitalization rose to a maximum of nearly US$80/share in late 1995, and declined in later years.

Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998 for about US$420 million in stock.[2] Brøderbund had initially attempted to purchase the original The Learning Company in 1995, but was outbid by Softkey, who purchased The Learning Company for $606 million, and then renamed themselves to The Learning Company. The company then bought Brøderbund in 1998 and in a move to rationalize costs, The Learning Company promptly terminated 500 employees at Brøderbund the same year, around 42% of the company's workforce. In 1999, the merged company was then bought out by Mattel. Mattel experienced great financial trouble, and due to investor outrage, Jill Barad, CEO, was forced out. Mattel then gave away The Learning Company in September 2000 to private acquisitions firm, Gores Technology Group.

In 2001, Gores sold The Learning Company's entertainment holdings to Ubisoft, and most of the other holdings, including the Brøderbund name, to Irish company Riverdeep (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology). Currently, all of Brøderbund's games, such as the Myst series, are published by Ubisoft.

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