Interplay back in black, still seeking Fallout MMOG funding

Once-mighty publisher posts profit following July Fallout IP sale, says postnuclear massively multiplayer RPG remains "key" to future.

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As publisher of the Baldur's Gate and Descent series, Interplay Entertainment was a force to be reckoned with the 1990s. However, ever since it was taken over in 2001 by French publisher Titus Interactive, its fortunes have fallen. Founder Brian Fargo departed the next year, followed in 2003 by many of the talented developers forced out by the closure of Black Isle Studios. In 2004, the company was forced out of its headquarters for nonpayment of rent, laid off almost its entire staff, was threatened by the California state authorities, and all but disappeared from public view.

In mid-2004, though, Interplay made headlines when it licensed its popular IP Fallout to acclaimed role-playing game developer-publishers Bethesda Softworks. The deal covered only console and PC Fallout titles, though. On the agreement's eve in 2004, Interplay CEO Herve Caen announced an ambitious plan for a Fallout massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Interplay again touted its MMORPG master plan in December 2006, in case anyone had forgotten.

Yesterday, the publisher again reminded the world of a Fallout MMORPG when it reported its finances for the quarter ending June 30, 2007. The three-month period saw the developer turn a $5.46 million profit, thanks to a near-complete lack of operating expenses and the $5.75 million it received when Bethesda bought the Fallout IP outright this past April. Total quarterly revenues were $5.81 million, up 2,431 percent from the same period in 2006.

"I am pleased with the progress the company has made, particularly with our debt load, which has improved from $59 million in December 2001 to less than $3 million today," Caen said in a statement. "With that difficult period behind us, we are focused on securing funding for development of a massively multiplayer online game based on the popular Fallout franchise. ... Fallout Online will play a key role in the future of Interplay."

Interplay did not expand on the plans it laid out for Fallout Online last year. That called for the raising of some $75 million to fund development of the project, which remains tentatively set for a July 2010 launch. Bethesda will release the totally redesigned, critically acclaimed, yet still controversial Fallout for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 late next year.

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