id software showed Ken Williams an early version of Wolfenstein 3D, and Romero recalls being “flabbergasted” by his response.
“After about 30 seconds of watching it wanted to show me the new game they were working on, Red Baron Online,” Romero said. “I was stunned. Like, here comes the future, the start of a new genre: the first-person shooter. And Ken couldn’t pay attention to it.”
Williams, for his part, would have been shocked to learn that id Software was making $50,000 a month from its shareware model, which was exploding in popularity in the early 1990s. He offered to acquire id Software for 2, $5 million in company stock.
Romero says id Software was thrilled with the offer, but decided to ask for an additional $100,000 in cash up front.
“Ken thought about it for a second and then he was like, ‘No thanks, but good luck with everything.’ So the 100,000 was a bit too rich for him,” Romero said.
Madly divergent destinies
The fates of Sierra On-Line and id Software diverged after this meeting. A few years later, Sierra On-Line was acquired by CUC International, which put it on the road to collapse and closure. In the meantime, id Software created DOOM, which propelled it into the ranks of the most famous studios of all time, which would later be acquired by Bethesda and eventually Xbox.
Had id Software decided to go ahead with the deal, it might have met the fate of developer Red Baron Dynamix, which was shut down amid a restructuring effort in 2001. Either that or the success of DOOM could have kept Sierra On-Line away from its fateful acquisition. Anyway, the story of the game could have been very different.
It turns out that Ken and Roberta Williams recently returned to the gaming industry after a long hiatus. They’re currently working on Colossal Cave 3D – a massive update to the classic 1970s text-based adventure. As for Romero, he recently made a new level for DOOM 2 with all proceeds helping refugees from the Ukrainian conflict.
Kat Bailey is senior news writer at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have any advice? Send him a DM at @the_katbot.