Brøderbund Logo
Title Brøderbund
Founded 1980
Defunct 1999 (Bought by The Learning Company)
Headquarters Novato, California
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. Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998. Many of its popular software titles, such as The Print Shop, PrintMaster and Mavis Beacon, are still published under the name "Brøderbund".


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, which stayed the highest grossing home computer game for years.

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. By the end of the 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.

For a brief time, Brøderbund was involved in the video game console market when they published a few games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), although all of the NES ports of their games, including their own franchises Lode Runner, Spelunker and Raid on Bungeling Bay, were developed by third-party Japanese companies. Brøderbund also developed and marketed an ill-fated motion sensitive NES controller device called the U-Force, which was operated without direct physical contact between the player and the device. They also published some titles that were produced by companies that didn't have a North American subsidiary, such as Compile's The Guardian Legend, Imagineer's The Battle of Olympus, Arsys Software's 1986 third-person action RPG shooter WiBArm, and Legacy of the Wizard, the fourth installment in Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer series.

Corporate HistoryEdit

Brøderbund was founded by brothers Doug and Gary Carlston in 1980 for the purpose of marketing Galactic Empire, a computer game that Doug Carlston had created in 1979. Their sister, Cathy, joined the company a year later. Before founding the company, Doug was a lawyer and Gary had held a number of jobs, including teaching Swedish at an American college.

In 1984, Brøderbund took over the assets of the well-regarded, but financially-troubled Synapse Software. Although intending to keep it running as a business, they were unable to make money from Synapse's products, and closed it down after a year.

Brøderbund became a public company in November 1991; their NASDAQ symbol, no longer operative, was BROD. Their stock price and market capitalization climbed steadily to a maximum of nearly US$80/share in late 1995, and then fell steadily in the face of continued losses for a number of years.

Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998 for about US$420 million in stock.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 in cash and then adopted its name. The Learning 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, representing 42% of the company's workforce. Then in 1999 the combined company was bought by Mattel for $3.6 billion. Mattel reeled from the financial impact of this transaction, and Jill Barad, the CEO, ended up being forced out in a climate of investor outrage. Mattel then gave away The Learning Company in September 2000 to Gores Technology Group, a private acquisitions firm, for a share of whatever Gores could obtain by selling the company. 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. Currently, all of Brøderbund's games, such as the Myst series, are published by Ubisoft.

Broderbund, with an "o" instead of the "ø" character, is now the brand name for Riverdeep's graphic design, productivity, and edutainment titles such as The Print Shop, Carmen Sandiego, Mavis Beacon, the Living Books series, and Reader Rabbit titles, in addition to publishing software for other companies, notably Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm.

External LinksEdit