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Interplay: Bethesda Knew Fallout MMO Was More Than A Name

Gamasutra has obtained a new court filing dated June 23 that responds to a motion for preliminary injunction filed by Bethesda to prevent Interplay from using elements of Fallout's story, setting and characters in the upcoming Fallout Online MMOG. Bethesda claims that it only licensed the Fallout name to the resurrected-yet-financially-troubled developer. Interplay disagrees.

According to the filing, the original Fallout developer Interplay cites certain conversations it had with Bethesda as far back as 2007, showing that both parties were fully aware of Interplay's intentions to use Fallout elements in the upcoming MMOG. Interplay also claims that Bethesda took its time in filing for its latest injunction just six months shy of the MMOG going into testing. Coincidence?

"For at least four years, Bethesda has known that Interplay interpreted its right to create the Fallout-branded MMOG to include copyrighted content from the Fallout universe in order to make the MMOG a recognizable Fallout game," the filing reads. "Bethesda never objected and did not seek an injunction because it knew Interplay was doing exactly what the parties intended under their agreements."

Interplay's retaliation also addresses Bethesda's argument that a Fallout MMO would "confuse and confound" Fallout 3 players because of alleged plot conflicts between the games. "This is ironic because Bethesda contends Interplay should have created an entire game of incompatible story, characters, and art and labeled it Fallout only in name," Interplay argues.

Gamasutra also reports that Interplay's filing accuses Bethesda of refusing invitations to coordinate story details during the MMOG's design stage. Interplay argues that any plot conflicts are only a minor part of over 20,000 pages of design documents.

Back in September 2009, Bethesda filed a lawsuit against Interplay claiming that the studio violated their agreement because the project had not yet taken off in April as agreed. Interplay countersued, stating that interrupting was against the original contract of the sale of the Fallout IP, thus making the sale obsolete. Bethesda originally purchased the Fallout franchise from Interplay in April 2007 for $5.75 million USD, but clauses in the purchase agreement allows Interplay to license the rights to the development of the MMOG specifically.

But in January, Fallout 3 developer Bethesda told the court that the licensing deal it made with Interplay only allowed the developer to use the Fallout name for the MMOG, nothing else. The notion was ludicrous to say the least – that's like saying DC Comics will only license out the Superman name, forcing movie studios to create a documentary about ants dragging a pebble across the road rather than the son of Krypton. Gamers playing a Fallout MMOG will expect to see a Fallout setting. Seriously Bethesda?

So far Bethesda has yet to offer a statement in regards to the June 23 filing.