What we heard: In 2007, Bethesda Softworks parent company Zenimax Media formed Zenimax Online, a massively multiplayer online gaming arm headed by Mythic Entertainment cofounder Matt Frior. At the time, Zenimax was hush-hush on what the branch, which was given access to some $300 million in funding, was at work on. However, speculative eyes soon turned toward an MMORPG devoted to Bethesda's celebrated Elder Scrolls fantasy franchise, after Zenimax registered the URL elderscrollsonline.com.
Unfortunately, beyond that initial and altogether ambiguous sighting, no additional details about the game have surfaced. However, that changed this week, courtesy of court documents related to Bethesda's ongoing spat with Interplay over the Fallout license.
As reported by Duck and Cover, testimony from a preliminary injunction hearing held on December 29 between Bethesda and Fallout yielded information relating to Zenimax Online's project. Duck and Cover reports that the studio has "tens and tens of millions of dollars" as well as "close to a hundred people" wrapped up in crafting a "World of Warcraft"-style MMORPG. Bethesda reportedly has been trying to keep the project under wraps in an effort to stave off competition.
The testimony reportedly goes on to note that a team was assigned to the project in late 2006, with work entering full production since 2007. Duck and Cover's reading of the document had Bethesda's project on a four-year development cycle, indicating that the game could be released as soon as next year.
Unfortunately, Bethesda subsequently filed to have the pertinent information redacted from the court testimony, a motion that was approved this week. According to court documents, the revised document will be available once again to the public on March 29.
Still, the court transcript reportedly did not indicate the exact nature of Zenimax Online's project. However, it did reportedly note that the MMORPG in question is not related to Fallout, the rights for which Bethesda is currently disputing with Interplay.
However, British gaming news site VG247 claims to have been "very reliably informed" that the project is indeed an Elder Scrolls MMORPG. The site's source reportedly claimed that Bethesda had initially planned to announce the game in 2009 but that the reveal was canceled for an undisclosed reason.
The official story: Bethesda had not returned requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus. It seems unlikely that Bethesda and Zenimax would invest so heavily into a new intellectual property for a risky online effort--especially considering Elder Scrolls' strong following and suitable fantasy aesthetic.