Last year id Software revealed that it would no longer license its engine out to game developers unless they resided under the Zenimax roof. The move wasn't all that surprising given that the studio really hasn't farmed out the id Tech engine over the last decade or so, eclipsed by Epic Games who has seemingly marketed its Unreal Engine technology to the point where it dominates the gaming sector like Intel dominates the PC sector.
"It's interesting when you look at our technology licensing -- it was never really a business that I wanted to be in," id co-founder and lead programmer John Carmack admitted to Gamasutra. "In the very early days, people would pester us, and we'd just throw out some ridiculous terms, and we were surprised when people started taking us up on it."
"I didn't want to be in the process of supporting a lot of outside teams, because you feel beholden to not make radical changes when it's going to pull the rug out from lots of other people," he added. "When it's your own team, you can make the sensible decision that [a big change] is going to be worth it, that it's going to suck for a while, but we make our way through it. But you don't want to do that to other people."
Even if id decided to crank up the engine licensing machine once again (with Zenimax's blessing), the studio's new id Tech 5 is only good for certain types of games. Obviously it's built for RAGE, but Carmack said it wouldn't be ideal for Grand Theft Auto or even Bethesda's current and fifth Elder Scrolls title also in development in-house, Skyrim.
"The megatexture direction [in id Tech 5] has some big wins, but it's also fairly restrictive on certain types of games," he said. "It would be a completely unacceptable engine to do Skyrim in, where you've got the whole world, walking across these huge areas."
Carmack also gave a nod to FPS "competitor" Epic Games and the work it has done over the years to build an engine licensing empire.
"Epic's done a really good job of building up a support structure for [engine licensing]," he said. "The market was ours to keep, but we abdicated because we weren't willing to put that effort into it. We didn't want half our company to be about managing technology licensing. Epic has gone and done a great job with it."
In a separate interview, id Software creative director Tim Willits admitted that he was also glad to be out of the licensing business. "For us, it was such a burden off our back," he said. "Licensing is a big pain, it really is. ... We always wanted to focus on the games, so it was a nice relief for us not to have to do that."
Getting out of the licensing biz means that the studio can now focus on getting us some DOOM 4 in our hands pronto!