After many years of problems and arguments of a legal nature, last week brought news (opens in new tab) that the battle over the rights to make a Fallout MMO had finally been decided, but it was still in question which side won. Would Interplay retain the MMO rights to the series it had first or had Bethesda now received full use of the property it purchased? If you bet on the side with more money, looks then you guessed correct.
According to Bethesda’s press release on the outcome of the court battle, the settlement between Interplay and Bethesda first and foremost means Interplay has to stop development of Fallout Online immediately, as only Bethesda can legally create a Fallout MMO from now on. In fact, from the wording of the press release from Bethesda’s parent company Zenimax, it looks like Interplay lost big time in the settlement. Not only did Interplay lose all the rights to make Fallout Online, it also will lose the rights to the older Fallout games come 2014. As Bethesda put it:
“Under the terms of the settlement, the license granted to Interplay to develop the Fallout MMO is null and void, and all rights granted to Interplay to develop a Fallout MMO revert back to Bethesda, effective immediately. Interplay has no ongoing right to use the Fallout brand or any Fallout intellectual property for any game development… Interplay will be permitted to continue to sell the original Fallout Tactics, Fallout and Fallout 2 PC games through December 2013, after which time all rights to market those games revert to and become the sole property of Bethesda.”
The matter dates back to 2007, Bethesda purchased the Fallout franchise from the struggling Interplay but gave Interplay the rights to make a Fallout MMO, so long as Interplay met certain demands. In Bethesda’s opinion Interplay couldn’t meet those demands, and while it wasn’t proven either way if Interplay actually had the financing to develop the MMO, this settlement makes the point moot anyway.
So what does this mean for the future? Well it means Interplay lost however much they invested in Fallout Online over the past five or so years, and that the company will probably mainly subsist on selling Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics on sites like Steam and GOG. But what happens to whatever it is Interplay created for Fallout Online while battling Bethesda in the courts?
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Perhaps Bethesda could purchase that from Interplay and use it in some future game, but we highly doubt that Zenimax has any real plans to make a Fallout MMO in the immediate future. The point of this lawsuit wasn’t so Bethesda could make an MMO, it was to make sure no one else could. And it looks like that until an eventual nuclear apocalypse, Bethesda owns Fallout lock, stock, and barrel.