Earthrise studio arming Fallout MMORPG Interplay enlists Bulgaria-based Masthead Studios to work on still-gestating massively multiplayer "Project V13."
In 2007, Interplay Entertainment sold ZeniMax Media the Fallout game IP, which the latter's subsidiary Bethesda Softworks had licensed since 2004. The result of that deal was the critically lionized Fallout 3, which has sold nearly 2 million copies in the US and shipped 4.7 million units worldwide. The postnuclear role-playing game also took top honors at last week's Game Developers Choice Awards, held in conjunction with the 2009 Game Developers Conference
As Fallout 3 hogged the headlines, Interplay used the cash it got from the IP sale to fund its massively multiplayer Fallout project, code-named Project V13. And for a time, it appeared the once nearly bankrupt publisher would develop the game internally. It restarted its internal development studio and even hired original Fallout developer Chris Taylor to work on the project, which has been in development since November 2007.
Now, though, it seems that Interplay has deemed Project V13 too big a title to handle on its own. This morning, the Irvine, California-based company announced it has "signed a binding letter of intent" with Masthead Studios "to fund the development of Project V13." Under the terms of the deal, Interplay will oversee a collaboration between its own dev team and Masthead's on the title, using the Bulgarian studio's toolset. Currently Masthead is working on Earthrise, another postapocalyptic MMOG also set after World War III, slated for release later this year.
If Project V13 is a success, it will prove a remarkable reversal of fortune for Interplay. A leading publisher during the 1990s, it fell on hard times during the current decade, with its parent company, Titus Interactive, declaring bankruptcy in 2005. In 2004, the publisher suffered a series of misfortunes and was temporarily shut down by state labor officials, threatened with eviction, and had its Web site go offline. The previous year, it closed down its award-winning Black Isle Studios, the refugees from which went on to form Alpha Protocol developer Obsidian Entertainment.
The folks over at No Mutants Allowed noticed something fishy from Interplay reagrding their Fallout MMO.
According to Interplay's annual SEC report, the Fallout MMO, widely speculated to be under development at Interplay under the code name Project V13, may be in trouble.
Interplay had sold the rights to the Fallout property to Bethesda, but retained the rights to develop a Fallout MMO in an agreement signed back in April 2007. As part of the license agreement, Interplay had to meet certain development and funding milestones.
Now, two years on, Bethesda claims these targets haven't been met and that Interplay is in breach of the license agreement. Despite posting losses in 2008 and current difficulties gaining a credit agreement, Interplay disputes these claims, having recently entered into an agreement with Earthrise developer Masthead Studios to work on Project V13.
Interplay recently received notice that Bethesda Softworks, LLC ("Bethesda") intends to terminate the trademark license agreement between Bethesda and Interplay which was entered into April 4, 2007 for the development of FALLOUT MMOG. Despite the fact that no formal action is currently pending, Bethesda claims that Interplay is in breach of the trademark license agreement for failure to commence fill scale development of same by April 4, 2009 and to secure certain funding for the MMOG. Interplay adamantly disputes these claims. Although the potential damages are currently unknown, if Bethesda ultimately prevails and cancels the trademark license agreement, Interplay would lose its license back of the "Fallout" MMOG and any damages resulting therefrom are unknown at this time.
Now, according to the 10-K, Bethesda and Interplay's deal is unraveling. "Interplay recently received notice that Bethesda Softworks, LLC ('Bethesda') intends to terminate the trademark license agreement between Bethesda and Interplay which was entered into April 4, 2007 for the development of a Fallout MMOG," states the filing. "Despite the fact that no formal action is currently pending, Bethesda claims that Interplay is in breach of the trademark license agreement for failure to commence full-scale development of same by April 4, 2009 and to secure certain funding for the MMOG."
"Although the potential damages are currently unknown, if Bethesda ultimately prevails and cancels the trademark license agreement, Interplay would lose its license back of the 'Fallout' MMOG and any damages resulting therefrom are unknown at this time."
When asked for comment, Bethesda vice president of marketing Pete Hines declined to elaborate. "As it's a legal matter, none of that is stuff we can comment on," he told GameSpot.
Hines also declined to comment on what would happen if the Fallout MMORPG license were to revert to Bethesda and its parent company, ZeniMax Media. However, it's unlikely that such a prized property would lie fallow for long. In August 2007, ZeniMax announced that it was opening its own MMOG studio, rumored to be working on a massively multiplayer spin-off of Bethesda's popular fantasy RPG series, The Elder Scrolls. In October of that year, the division scored $300 million in funding, although little has been heard about its project--or projects--since.