Interplay staves off Fallout MMORPG shutdown

Court denies Bethesda's preliminary injunction request to prevent franchise creator from making, selling iconic postapocalyptic games.

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Interplay has been a company against the ropes for more than a couple of years at this point, but the publisher has been able to remain on its feet thanks largely to the continuing popularity of the Fallout franchise. However, in September, Interplay's claim to the Fallout franchise, which it launched in 1997, came into question, after current license holder Bethesda Softworks leveled a bevy of breach-of-contract charges at the ailing publisher.

Project V13 remains a work in progress.

Over the weekend, however, Interplay won a victory of sorts in its legal wrangling with Bethesda. The US District Court of Maryland denied Bethesda's request for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented Interplay from continuing development on its massively multiplayer online role-playing game installment in the Fallout franchise, code-named Project V13. The preliminary injunction would have also prevented Interplay from continuing to sell Fallout-branded products such as Fallout Trilogy, Fallout Collection, and Saga Fallout.

The Fallout MMORPG is a serious point of contention in Bethesda's lawsuit. When Bethesda purchased the Fallout license for $5.75 million in 2007, it licensed the rights to make an MMORPG based on the franchise back to Interplay. However, the license came with the stipulation that Interplay had to start full-time development within two years. In April, Bethesda opted to revoke the Fallout MMORPG rights, just as Interplay had entered into a development deal on the project with Masthead Studios, concept art for which recently surfaced.

While the court's decision to deny Bethesda's preliminary injunction can be considered a win for Interplay, the beleaguered publisher is still facing the prospect of permanently losing its rights to Fallout. As part of its original suit, Bethesda is demanding that the court formally declare that Interplay no longer has any rights to the Fallout name or trademark. It also wants the court to place a permanent injunction on Interplay to stop it from selling any Fallout-branded products. Further, it wants Interplay to submit in writing a declaration that it no longer has any rights to the Fallout brand.

Interplay responded to Bethesda's suit in October with a counterclaim of its own. The countersuit claims that Bethesda violated the terms of the trademark licensing agreement and the asset purchase agreement, which were both entered into in April 2007. Interplay has requested that the court recognize that it still has the licensing rights to make a Fallout MMORPG. In the alternative, the publisher seeks that Bethesda's purchasing agreement from 2007 be rescinded and that all Fallout rights return to Interplay.

The company has also petitioned the court to award it royalties it would be due under Bethesda's original licensing agreement from 2004, a figure it estimates at $15 million thanks to the highly successful Fallout 3.

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