Interplay restarting dev studio

Company says it will make new installments of Earthworm Jim, Descent, MDK, Dark Alliance if it can get the money.

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As a publisher, Interplay is a shell of its former self. After a visible and embarrassing series of events in which the company was threatened with eviction, sued by BioWare for nonpayment of royalties on the Baldur's Gate series, and finally closed by authorities for not paying or insuring its employees, the publisher all but disappeared.

In 2006, the company revealed it was planning a massively multiplayer online game based on the Fallout universe; it just needed $75 million to get it done. That funding hasn't materialized yet, but the publisher explained how it will keep busy in the meantime in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.

With the explanation that it is looking at ways of leveraging its stable of franchises "through sequels and various development and publishing arrangements," Interplay announced it is restarting its in-house development studio. The money to establish that studio will come from the recent sale of the Fallout franchise to Bethesda Softworks. (Interplay is now licensing the Fallout IP from Bethesda for its upcoming MMOG.) The publisher also said it has brought back Jason Anderson, a lead artist on the original Fallout game and cofounder of the defunct Troika Games, to serve as creative director for an unannounced MMOG.

Among the projects Interplay has said it wants to develop are sequels to Earthworm Jim, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, Descent, and MDK, provided it can find the financing. The Earthworm Jim license was most recently held by Atari, which announced a PlayStation Portable version of the game last year with Shiny as the developer. Atari later sold Shiny to Foundation 9, and the project appears to be dead. Shiny was previously owned by Interplay until the publisher sold it to Atari in 2002.

The Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance sequel also has ties to Atari, given that the Infogrames subsidiary currently holds the rights to the Dungeons & Dragons license. Like the rest of the Baldur's Gate series, the Dark Alliance spin-off for consoles was created under the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms imprint. Interplay signed a multiyear deal for the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale licenses in 2002, but it's unclear when that arrangement was set to expire.

[UPDATE]: An Interplay representative confirmed for GameSpot that the company owns the Dark Alliance name, and can continue to make fantasy role-playing games under that banner so long as they don't use the Dungeons & Dragons license, which includes the Forgotten Realms world and the Baldur's Gate name. As for Earthworm Jim, Interplay owns the property, and Atari merely has a license to make certain handheld games based on the character.

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