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Brøderbund Software, Inc.
Fate Purchased by The Learning Company
Successor The Learning Company
Founded 1980
Defunct 1998
Headquarters Eugene, Oregon
San Rafael, California
Novato, California
Key people
Doug Carlston
Gary Carlston
Cathy Carlston Brisbois
Edmund Auer
Products Computer software and video games

Brøderbund Software, Inc. was an American maker of video games, educational software and productivity tools. Broderbund is best known for the 8-bit computer game hits Choplifter, Lode Runner, Karateka, and Prince of Persia (all of which originated on the Apple II), as well as the The Print Shop—originally for printing signs and banners on dot matrix printers—and the Carmen Sandiego games. The company was founded in Eugene, Oregon, and moved to San Rafael, California, then later to Novato, California.[1] Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998.

Many of Brøderbund's software titles, such as The Print Shop, PrintMaster and Mavis Beacon, are still published under the name "Broderbund" ("o" instead of "ø"). Games released by the revived Broderbund are distributed by Encore, Inc.


  • Corporate history 1
  • Products 2
  • Etymology and pronunciation 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Corporate history

Brøderbund was founded by brothers [5]

By early 1984 InfoWorld estimated that Brøderbund was tied with Human Engineered Software as the world's tenth-largest microcomputer-software company and largest entertainment-software company, with $13 million in 1983 sales.[6] That year it 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.[7]

Brøderbund's The Print Shop software produced signs and greeting cards. Brøderbund started discussions with Unison World about creating a version that would run on DOS. The two companies could not agree on a contract, but Unison World developed a DOS product with similar function and a similar user interface. Broderbund sued for infringement of their copyright. Broderbund v. Unison (1986) became a landmark case in establishing that the look and feel of a software product could be subject to copyright protection.[8]

Sierra On-Line and Brøderbund ended merger discussions in March 1991.[9] By this time Brøderbund was developing most of its software, as opposed to publishing software others had developed; Doug Carlston stated the company needed "to control our own sources, to control our future". After an unsuccessful Initial Public Offering in 1987,[10] it became a public company in November 1991;[11] its NASDAQ symbol was BROD.[12] When Brøderbund went public The Print Shop comprised 33% of total revenue, and the Carmen Sandiego series 26%.[13] The company's 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 acquired PC Globe in July 1992.[14] The Learning Company purchased Brøderbund in 1998 for about US$420 million in stock.[2] Brøderbund had initially attempted to purchase the original The Learning Company in 1995,[15][16] 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,[17] representing 42% of the company's workforce. Then in 1999 the combined company was bought by Mattel for $3.6 billion.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] Many 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 Teaches Typing, the Living Books series, and Reader Rabbit titles, in addition to publishing software for other companies, notably Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm.

The Broderbund line of products is published by Encore, Inc under license from Riverdeep.[21][22] Under the terms of the agreement, Encore now manages the Broderbund family of products as well as Broderbund’s direct to consumer business. In May 2010 Encore acquired the assets of Punch! Software[23]

In 2014 Doug Carlston donated a collection of Brøderbund's business records, software and a collection of games that includes Myst, Prince of Persia and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to The Strong National Museum of Play. The Strong National Museum of Play forwarded the collection to the ICHEG museum for preservation.[24]


Brøderbund scored an early hit with the game Galactic Empire, written by Doug Carlston for the TRS-80. The company became 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, The Battle of Olympus, In the 1st Degree, The Last Express, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, The Guardian Legend, and Myst, which stayed the highest grossing home video game for years. The company's first title for the Apple II, Tank Command, was written by the third Carlston brother, Professor Donal Carlston

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.[25] This included not only the IBM PC-DOS personal computer, but also the leading home computers from the decade, notably the TRS-80, the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the Atari 8-bit and the Amiga. The company even went on licensing some of its titles to British 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 published the Print Shop series of desktop publishing making programs,[26] Family Tree Maker[27] (a genealogy program supported by hundreds of CDs of public genealogy data), 3D Home Architect,[28] a program for designing and visualizing family homes and Banner Mania, a program for designing and printing multi-page banners. 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 Living Books series by forming a joint venture with Random House Publishing.[29] 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 it published a few games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) through its New Ventures Division.[30] All of Broderbund's games for the NES, including the port of its own franchises Lode Runner, Spelunker and Raid on Bungeling Bay, were developed by third-party Japanese companies. Brøderbund 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, and Legacy of the Wizard, the fourth installment in Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer series. 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.[31] In 1990, Brøderbund sold its New Ventures Division, including manufacturing equipment, inventory, and assets, to then-fledgling company THQ.[30][32]

Brøderbund released in the United States Arsys Software's 1986 third-person action RPG shooter WiBArm,[33]

Brøderbund briefly had a board game division, which published Don Carlston's Personal Preference, along with several board game versions of its video games.

Etymology and pronunciation

The word "brøderbund" is not an actual word in any language but is a somewhat loose translation of "band of brothers" into a mixture of Danish, German, and Swedish.[34] The "ø" in "Brøderbund" was used partially as a play on the Norwegian/Danish letter ø but was mainly referencing the slashed zero found in mainframes, terminals and early personal computers.[35] The three crowns above the logo are also a reference to the lesser national coat of arms of Sweden.

The company's name was pronounced [36] instead of the popularly used .

See also

  • Selling for Free; The Net Zero Rebates ; Broderbund, high on the profits of Myst (actually done by a company called Cyan in Washington), brought in marketing "experts" that dragged the company into a pricing battle to the basement with a new invention in software, the net-zero rebate. The idea was that the company would offer a full rebate of the price of its product if the customer was willing to fill out some paperwork and cut off the UPC code from the box. The experts, folks from Proctor and Gamble and other technology giants, assured management that the redemption on the rebates would be so low that the net effect would be no where near a zero price set for it's best-selling products. Well, they got that wrong and it turned out that even purchasers of the company's profitable school editions of products like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego would purchase the consumer versions just to get the rebates. The lesson learned, too late unfortunately, is that if you tell your customers that your product is worth nothing...they will eventually believe you.


  1. ^ "About Broderbund." Brøderbund. April 12, 1997. Retrieved on June 3, 2011. "Brøderbund Software, Inc. 500 Redwood Blvd. Novato, California 94948"
  2. ^ a b Pelline, Jeff (June 22, 1998). "The Learning Co. buys Broderbund".  
  3. ^ "Company: Broderbund Software".  
  4. ^ a b c Uston, Ken (September 1984). "A family affair; behind the scenes at Broderbund".  
  5. ^ Wilson, Johnny L. (November 1991). "A History of Computer Games". Computer Gaming World. p. 10. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Caruso, Denise (1984-04-02). "Company Strategies Boomerang". InfoWorld. pp. 80–83. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Hague, James, ed. (1997). "Steve Hales". Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers. Dadgum. Retrieved 2014-06-13. Synapse was owned by Broderbund for another year while we tried to sell the Electronic Novels, but the market had already changed too much to make any money, so Broderbund shut Synapse down. 
  8. ^ Galler, Bernard A. (1995). Software and Intellectual Property Protection: Copyright and Patent Issues for Computer and Legal Professionals. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 23.  
  9. ^ "Inside the Industry". Computer Gaming World. June 1991. p. 62. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Fisher, Lawrence M. (1991-07-09). "Software Star Hits the Media Road". The New York Times. pp. D7. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "Broderbund's Net Up 81%".  
  12. ^ "Broderbund Software, Inc.".  
  13. ^ "The Print Shop Still Prints Money At Broderbund Software". Computer Gaming World. February 1993. p. 82. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Broderbund Purchases PC Globe". Computer Gaming World. October 1992. p. 16. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Daly, Brenon (June 29, 1998). "The Learning Company buys Broderbund 6-22-98".  
  16. ^ Fisher, Lawrence (November 9, 1995). "Learning Accepts New Offer From Broderbund Software".  
  17. ^ "Broderbund Software".  
  18. ^ Malik, Om (1998-12-15). "The investing game".  
  19. ^ Doan, Amy (April 3, 2000). "Mattel To Ditch The Learning Company".  
  20. ^ Norr, Henry (August 27, 2002). "Irish group buys Broderbund software firm".  
  21. ^ "Announcing the Release of Broderbund's PrintMaster 2.0".  
  22. ^ "Encore, Inc & Riverdeep Sign Expanded License Agreement". Press Release. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  23. ^ "Encore, Inc. Acquires Punch! Software". Press Release. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  24. ^ Tach, Dave (2014-03-04). "Broderbund founder donates collection including Myst, Prince of Persia to Museum of Play". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  25. ^ "Brøderbund Company Information", GameFAQs. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
  26. ^ Shannon, L.R. (September 14, 1993). "PERIPHERALS; For Desktop Advice, A Publishing Wizard".  
  27. ^ Biersdorfer, J.D. (May 13, 1999). "NEWS WATCH; Family Tree Maker Software Now Has 1.5 Billion Names".  
  29. ^ Adelson, Andrea (September 11, 1993). "COMPANY NEWS; Random House Children's Books Headed for PC's".  
  30. ^ a b Carlsen, Clifford (1990-09-10). "Broderbund Software Inc. jettisons Nintendo, games.".  
  31. ^ Pollack, Andrew (January 9, 1989). "Trade Show's Hottest Item: The TV Set".  
  32. ^ Carlsen, Clifford (10 September 1990). "Broderbund Software Inc. jettisons Nintendo, games. (THQ Inc. buys New Ventures division from Broderbund)".  
  33. ^ Szczepaniak, John. "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Hardcore Gaming 101. p. 4. Retrieved 2011-03-16.  Reprinted from "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier".  
  34. ^ McLaughlin, Rus (May 30, 2008). "IGN Presents: The History of Prince of Persia".  
  35. ^ Bergen, Tim (November 19, 2004). "Oral History of Douglas Carlston" (PDF).  
  36. ^ Rifkin, Glenn (September 11, 1995). "Broderbund Casts Itself as a Studio".  

External links

  • Broderbund Official website
  • Archive of Brøderbund website
  • Profile at MobyGames
  • [2]
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