Shutdown rumors swirl around Interplay

[UPDATE] Unconfirmed reports say the troubled publisher's staff has been laid off and its office has been shuttered; anonymous office occupant says the rumors are "not true."

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In mid-April, Interplay announced its 2003 financial numbers. While the company's income was lackluster, CEO Herve Caen gave an optimistic if guarded outlook for 2004, promising a new Kingpin game and the possible resurrection of Fallout 3.

However, Interplay also filed papers with the SEC that showed it was three months behind in its rent and was facing eviction from its Irvine, California, headquarters. Two weeks ago, its official site, www.interplay.com, went offline. However, its still-functioning e-mail and phone system pointed to the fact that the company was still in existence, even if it wasn't responding to inquiries.

Today, however, unconfirmed reports began to surface that the publisher was indeed shutting down. Several stock-related and Interplay-game-related sites claimed to have received reports from Interplay employees that they were told by the company's human resources department to file for unemployment insurance. According to some sites, staffers were also told to collect their belongings by 5:00pm PDT on Tuesday because the property managers were preparing to lock all Interplay employees out of their Irvine offices. Other reports said the offices would be closed at 5:00pm Friday, and movers had already taken several major items of furniture and game memorabilia from the offices.

While numerous, none of the reports regarding Interplay have been confirmed by any official sources whatsoever. Calls to Interplay's offices were not returned, and e-mails sent to "@interplay.com" addresses were bounced back. Calls to Interplay's corporate parent, Titus Interactive Group, were also not returned. Representatives for Interplay's landlord, Los Angeles-based Arden Realty, would confirm that the publisher was a tenant but would not comment on the publisher's rental status as of press time. "I simply can't comment on that," said an Arden executive.

[UPDATE] Early Wednesday, the voicemail system at Titus' American offices ceased to function. An early follow-up call to Interplay's offices got an actual person on the line for the first time in over a month. When asked if Interplay was going out of business, the person said, "No, that's not true," but refused to elaborate. When asked if she was an employee of Interplay, the person said, "I'd rather not say," and promptly transferred the call to Herve Caen's personal mailbox. Caen had not responded to the voicemail as of press time, and several subsequent calls to Interplay's main line were met with a busy signal. As of 1pm Wednesday, the line was still busy.

However, even if the reports of Interplay's demise are greatly exaggerated, the company faces a rough road ahead. Besides its rental woes, the company is facing a battery of lawsuits, including one by Arden Realty for $432,000 in back rent and another by BioWare for $156,000 for unpaid Baldur's Gate royalties. During its financial report in mid-April, Interplay declared it had only $1.2 million in cash on hand.

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