Fallout and Dark Alliance II release date debacle

VU Games' RPGs look toward 2004 as likely ship date. Developer Interplay vows to distribute games itself, if need be.

If the new date is correct, they might as well call it Baldur's Late.

At least one major games retailer, EB Games Online, recently tweaked its Web site promotion of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, and is now listing the release date as January, 2004. The site has also pushed back Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, another Interplay-developed, VU Games-published title. A source involved in the retail distribution of the titles said the publisher reiterated the 2004 release dates as recently as yesterday, sending more than one notice of the date change.

If that is the case, Xbox and PlayStation 2 role-players will have one less title in their stockings this Christmas, and they would have corporate infighting between VU and Interplay to blame as the likely culprit.

At the end of September, Interplay suddenly announced that it was terminating its distribution deal with VU, accusing the publisher of nonpayment of $3 million and failing to live up to the terms of the agreement.

In comments given to the Orange County Register, Interplay CEO Herve Caen vowed that Interplay would distribute the games itself to make the scheduled Q4 release. "(Retailers) already know the titles are coming out," Caen is reported to have said, adding "these games are big enough that retailers want to get them on the shelves."

A delay would be disastrous for Interplay, which had been expecting to post a modest profit this year. "Profitability is contingent on the fourth quarter," said Caen.

Not that one would know anything is wrong listening to VU's official line. A VU Games staffer attributed the date change to inaccurate sales data and gave assurances both games were on track for a holiday release. At press-time, VU had no comment on an injunction it is reportedly bringing against Interplay to prevent it from distributing Dark Alliance II and Fallout itself.

The Fallout/Dark Alliance II debacle is just the latest setback for VU Games. Its most anticipated title, Half-Life 2, has slipped to an April 2004 release date due to a source-code theft.

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