David Braben

David John Braben OBE (born 2 January 1964) is a British video game developer and designer, founder and CEO of Frontier Developments, co-creator of the Elite series of space trading video games, first published in 1984.[1] He is also a co-founder of and works as a trustee for the Raspberry Pi Foundation which in 2012 launched a low-cost computer for education.[2][3]

David Braben

Braben at SingStar premiere at 2005 Cambridge game event
David John Braben

(1964-01-02) 2 January 1964
Alma materJesus College, Cambridge
Occupation(s)Business executive; video game developer and designer
Years active1984–present
Known for
TitleFounder and CEO of Frontier Developments
    Katharin Dickinson
    (m. 1993, divorced)
      Wendy Irvin-Braben
      (m. 2014)

      Personal life

      Braben attended Buckhurst Hill County High School in Chigwell in Essex.[4] He studied Natural Sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, specialising in Electrical Science in his final year. In May 1993, he married Katharin Dickinson in Cambridge.[5] His current wife is Wendy Irvin-Braben and he has two sons.[6]


      In 2008, Braben was an investor and non-executive director[7] of Phonetic Arts, a speech generation company led by Paul Taylor. Phonetic Arts was acquired by Google in 2010,[8] for an undisclosed sum.

      In May 2011, Braben announced a new prototype computer intended to stimulate the teaching of basic computer science in schools. Called Raspberry Pi, the computer is mounted in a package the size of a credit card, and has a USB port on one end with a HDMI monitor socket on the other, and provides an ARM processor running Linux for an estimated price of about £15 for a configured system, cheap enough to give to a child to do whatever he or she wants with it.[9] The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity whose aim is to "promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing".[10]

      Game development

      Braben has been called "one of the most influential computer game programmers of all time", based on his early game development with the Elite series in the 1980s and 1990s.[11] Next Generation listed him in their "75 Most Important People in the Games Industry of 1995", chiefly due to the original Elite.[12]

      Elite was developed in conjunction with programmer Ian Bell while both were undergraduate students at Cambridge University. Elite was first released in September 1984 and is known as the first game to have 3D hidden line removal. In 1987, Braben published Zarch for the Acorn Archimedes, ported in 1988 as Virus for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and PC.[13]

      After Zarch, Braben went on to develop the sequel to Elite, Frontier, published in 1993 and founded Frontier Developments, a games development company whose first project was a version of Frontier for the Amiga CD32. Braben is still the CEO and majority shareholder of the company, whose projects since 2000 have included Dog's Life, Kinectimals, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, LostWinds, Planet Coaster, Elite: Dangerous, Jurassic World Evolution, Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Zoo Tycoon, Coaster Crazy and games based on the Wallace & Gromit franchise.[14]

      In 2006, Braben was working on an ambitious next-generation game called The Outsider, being developed by Frontier Developments. As said in an interview,[15] he was planning to start working on Elite 4 – as a space MMORPG game – as soon as The Outsider went gold. Braben said explicitly that this title was of a special value to him. The Outsider was abandoned due to removal of publisher support and was never published.

      In 2012, Braben explained in an interview with developer website Gamasutra his opinion that the sale of secondhand games negatively affects development of new titles, also holding the price of games in general much higher than they would otherwise be.[16] However, later in 2014 he acknowledged: "Piracy goes hand in hand with sales. If a game is pirated a lot it will be bought a lot. People want a connected experience, so with pirated games we still have a route in to get them to upgrade to real version. And even if someone's version is pirated, they might evangelise and their mates will buy the real thing."[17]

      On 6 November 2012, Braben's Frontier Developments announced a new Elite sequel called Elite: Dangerous on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site.[18] Elite: Dangerous achieved its funding goal, and listed as one of the most funded Kickstarter campaigns.[19] The game was released on 16 December 2014, and by April 2015 had sold over 500,000 copies.[20] As of August 2017, the game has sold over 2.75 million copies.[21][22]


      Braben receiving the Pioneer Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2015

      On 5 September 2005, Braben received the Development Legend Award at the Develop Industry Excellence Awards in Cambridge.[23]

      In 2012, Braben was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.[24]

      In 2013, Braben was co-award winner of Tech Personality of the Year at the UK Tech Awards 2013.[25] In the same year he was awarded an honorary degree by Abertay University.[26]

      Braben was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to the UK computer and video games industry.[27][28]

      In January 2015, he received the 2015 Pioneer, Game Developers Choice Award (GDCA), for his work on the Raspberry Pi and for working more than 30 years as a game developer.[29]

      On 12 March 2015, Braben was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in video gaming at the 11th British Academy Games Awards.[30]

      Braben is the recipient of three honorary doctorates from Abertay University (2013),[31] the Open University (2014)[32] and the University of York (15 July 2015).[33]


      Game nameFirst releasedBraben's role(s)
      Elite 1984Designer & programmer
      Zarch 1987Developer
      Conqueror 1990Developer
      Campaign 1992Programmer (original 3D shape display code)
      Frontier: Elite II 1993Designer, writer & programmer
      Frontier: First Encounters 1995Director & writer
      Darxide 1995Designer
      V2000 1998Programmer
      Infestation 2000Creative director & engine and tool programmer
      Dog's Life 2003Director & designer
      RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 2004Executive producer
      RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked! 2005Executive producer
      RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Wild! 2005Executive producer
      Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 2005Executive producer
      Thrillville 2006Executive producer
      Thrillville: Off the Rails 2007Executive producer
      LostWinds 2008Executive producer
      LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias 2009Chairman
      Kinectimals 2010Executive producer
      Kinect Star Wars 2012Chairman & Founder
      Tales From Deep Space 2014CEO & Founder
      Elite: Dangerous 2014Director
      Planet Coaster 2016CEO & Founder
      Jurassic World Evolution 2018CEO & Founder


      1. "David Braben: Why The Industry Needs 'The Return of the Publisher'". Game Daily. 23 August 2018.
      2. What is Raspberry Pi?, Telegraph, 29 February 2012
      3. Demand for Raspberry Pi, the British £22 computer, crashes website, Guardian, 29 February 2012
      4. Parkin, Simon (8 February 2017). "The life of Pi". New Statesman. Retrieved 31 October 2017. Braben, who attended Buckhurst Hill County High, a grammar school in Chigwell, Essex, was a natural programmer, talented at maths and physics.
      5. "David Braben". The Centre for Computing History. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
      6. "Frontier Dev PLC: Director Dealings". FE Investegate. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
      7. David John Braben. "David Braben: Executive Profile & Biography – Businessweek". Investing.businessweek.com. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
      8. "Google Acquires Phonetic Arts To Make Robo-Voices Sound Human". TechCrunch. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
      9. Rory Cellan-Jones, "A 15 pound computer to inspire young programmers", BBC News, 5 May 2011
      10. "Raspberry Pi Foundation website". Raspberrypi.org. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
      11. Rebecca Burn-Callander (15 January 2014). "The godfather of video games looks to a new Frontier". The Telegraph.
      12. "75 Power Players". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 50. November 1995.
      13. "Virus". Atari Mania. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
      14. "Coaster Crazy: Build, ride and crash any roller coaster you can think of. For iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch". Coastercrazy.frontier.co.uk. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
      15. Q&A: David Braben—from Elite to today, GameSpot, 22 November 2006
      16. Cox, Caleb (20 March 2012). "Braben sticks knife into secondhand games market". Reg Hardware. The Register. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
      17. TechDirt (4 February 2014). "David Braben, Once Angry At Used Games, Now A New Business Model Embracer".
      18. Rory Cellan-Jones (6 November 2012). "Elite classic video games remake seeking backers". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
      19. Kickstarter. "Kickstarter, most funded". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015.
      20. Cambridge News (28 April 2015). "Frontier's Elite Dangerous earnings boost Cambridge Index". Archived from the original on 5 July 2015.
      21. Phillips, Tom (15 August 2017). "Planet Coaster soars past one million sales". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
      22. "Big tech presents next chapter for UK gaming companies". Financial Times. 26 April 2019.
      23. "David Braben". MobyGames. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
      24. "IET members among new Academy Fellows". The IET. 25 July 2012. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
      25. "UK Tech Awards 2017 :: 2013". UK tech awards. 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
      26. "David Braben Receives Honorary Degree from Abertay | Scottish Games Network". Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
      27. "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b11.
      28. "Queen's birthday honours list 2014: OBE". The Guardian. 13 June 2014.
      29. "2015 Game Developers Choice Awards Honoring Veteran Brenda Romero With Ambassador Award, Elite Co-Creator David Braben With Pioneer Award". PR newswire. 27 January 2015.
      30. Nutt, Christian (12 March 2015). "BAFTA Awards honor Destiny, Monument Valley, and David Braben". Gamasutra. UBM plc. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
      31. "2013 David Braben Receives Honorary Degree From Abertay". The Scottish Games Network. 2 December 2013. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
      32. "Frontier Developments PLC (FDEV.L) People". Reuters. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
      33. "University of York honours 11 for their contribution to society". University of York. 14 July 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
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