David John Braben, OBE (born 2 January 1964), is a British game developer, game designer and CEO of Frontier Developments plc, co-developer of Elite, a space trading computer game, published in 1984. 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.
Braben attended Buckhurst Hill County High School in Chigwell in Essex. He studied Natural Sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, specialising in Electrical Science in his final year. He then went on to study Computer Science as a post graduate. In May 1993 he married Katharin Dickinson in Cambridge.
In 2008, Braben was an investor and non-exec director of Phonetic Arts, a speech generation company led by Paul Taylor. Phonetic Arts was acquired by Google in 2010, 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 same size as 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. 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."
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 1980's.
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 1989 as Virus for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and PC.
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 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, Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Zoo Tycoon, Coaster Crazy and games based on the Wallace & Gromit franchise.
As of 2006, Braben was working on an ambitious next-generation game called The Outsider, being developed by Frontier Developments. As said in an interview, 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. 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.”
On 6 November 2012, Braben's Frontier Developments announced a new Elite sequel called Elite: Dangerous on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site.Elite: Dangerous achieved its funding goal, and listed as one of the most funded Kickstarter campaigns. Subsequently, Elite: Dangerous was released on 16 December 2014.
On 5 September 2005, Braben received the Development Legend Award at the Develop Industry Excellence Awards in Cambridge.
In 2012, Braben was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
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.
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.
On 12 March 2015, Braben was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in video gaming at the 11th British Academy Games Awards.