Looks as though there may be troubled waters ahead, as Interplay's annual performance report doesn't reveal a company in financial peril, but rather a revelation that all is not well between the company and Bethesda Softworks. Is there a major fallout brewing on the horizon?
Although Interplay originally owned the rights to the Fallout franchise, dating back to the release of the first title back in 1997, Bethesda purchased the franchise rights in 2007 (contract) for $5.75 million. The acquisition made Bethesda the sole owner of the IP, and Interplay a licensee so that the company could peruse its original plan to develop a MMOG based on the Fallout mythology.
However, clauses in the purchase agreement stated that Interplay must begin development of the MMOG within twenty-four months of the April 4, 2007 agreement date. Interplay must also secure $30 million within that timeframe, or forfeit its rights to license Fallout. Additionally, Interplay must actually launch the MMOG within four years of the initial development, and also pay Bethesda an additional 12 percent of subscription fees and sales for use of the Fallout IP. Interplay supposedly complied by commencing the development of the MMOG in April 2008, and also brought on Masthead Studios early this month to help in the development process; Masthead is providing the proprietary tools and MMOG technology originally developed for its "Earthrise" project.
But according to Interplay's filings, Bethesda still has an issue with the company. "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," the annual performance report reads. "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."
Back in September 2008, Interplay announced that game designer Chris Taylor wandered back to the nest, having served as part of the original Fallout game development team back in 1994. Taylor now serves as Lead System Designer for "Project V13," Interplay's working title for the MMOG in development (which is probably the Fallout title). The company said that he also joins other original Fallout team members at Interplay's internal game studio. Are all these original Fallout designers just a coincidence? Probably not.
It's probably safe to assume that Project V13 is actually the Fallout MMOG, and if that is certainly the case, it will be interesting to find out why Bethesda believes Interplay is in breech of contract. Perhaps Interplay hasn't secured the funds needed to fulfill its portion of the agreement; perhaps the MMOG project has nothing to do with Fallout whatsoever. Without answers, curious minds will have to wait for more information form either party.
As of this writing, Bethesda has not replied to our query on the matter.