After years of silence, the Fallout massively multiplayer role-playing game has suddenly become major headline fodder. Two weeks after the once-mighty publisher announced that it had entered into a partnership with Earthrise publisher Masthead Studios to codevelop Project V13, the game's code name, its once-nearly-bankrupt publisher Interplay announced that the project is in jeopardy.
In an April 15 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Interplay reports that Bethesda Softworks has announced its intent to cancel the deal that gave Interplay rights to make a Fallout massively multiplayer game. The deal was struck in 2007, when Bethesda--after having licensed the right to make Fallout 3 from Interplay in 2004-- bought the Fallout intellectual property (IP) outright. The Maryland-based company then licensed the Fallout MMORPG rights back to Interplay, provided that the latter company began developing such a project within two years.
Now, according to the 10-K, Bethesda and Interplay's deal is unraveling. "Interplay recently received notice that Bethesda Softworks, LLC ('Bethesda') intends to terminate the trademark license agreement between Bethesda and Interplay which was entered into April 4, 2007 for the development of a Fallout MMOG," states the filing. "Despite the fact that no formal action is currently pending, Bethesda claims that Interplay is in breach of the trademark license agreement for failure to commence full-scale development of same by April 4, 2009 and to secure certain funding for the MMOG."
"Although the potential damages are currently unknown, if Bethesda ultimately prevails and cancels the trademark license agreement, Interplay would lose its license back of the 'Fallout' MMOG and any damages resulting therefrom are unknown at this time."
When asked for comment, Bethesda vice president of marketing Pete Hines declined to elaborate. "As it's a legal matter, none of that is stuff we can comment on," he told GameSpot.
Hines also declined to comment on what would happen if the Fallout MMORPG license were to revert to Bethesda and its parent company, ZeniMax Media. However, it's unlikely that such a prized property would lie fallow for long. In August 2007, ZeniMax announced that it was opening its own MMOG studio, rumored to be working on a massively multiplayer spin-off of Bethesda's popular fantasy RPG series, The Elder Scrolls. In October of that year, the division scored $300 million in funding, although little has been heard about its project--or projects--since.