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Bethesda, Interplay Continue Legal Battles over Fallout Franchise

Earlier this year, we were treated to glorious rumors that the Fallout world would soon be receiving multiple entries into the post-nuclear, 50’s-styled world, and in multiple formats. An MMO was in the works, Fallout: New Vegas is due later this year and a Fallout 4 seems imminent. The lawsuits between Bethesda Studios, the new owner to the Fallout license and creators of the best selling Fallout 3, and Interplay, the creators of the original Fallout games, had reportedly been resolved and all was right in the apocalyptic future world.

Unfortunately for fans of the series, it appears that the lawsuits are far from over.

The legal trouble began the moment Bethesda licensed the rights to the Fallout games from Interplay back in 2004. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement, where Bethesda, makers of the award-winning Eldar Scrolls series, would take over the design and production of a new single-player Fallout game, while Interplay kept the rights to develop an MMO in the Fallout world.

In 2007, Bethesda purchased the intellectual property from Interplay for $5.75 million, but Interplay retained the rights to create a Fallout MMO – with very specific conditions. According to the contract, Interplay had to develop the MMO, codenamed Project: V13, within two years and secure at least $30 million in funding, or the rights would forfeit back to Bethesda.

In 2009, Bethesda sued Interplay over its lack of progress on the MMO, and demanded the rights. Bethesda also sued over Interplay’s release of the “Fallout Trilogy,” a collection of the original games, and Interplay countersued. A court ruling favored Interplay and Bethesda appealed.

Then earlier this year, the website Duckandcover.com initially reported that the legal battle had been resolved, and that all had been forgiven. Both companies had Fallout projects in the works, and both would go through within the next few years.

It seemed like a buffet of awesome for Fallout fans, crowned with Interplay releasing concept art of Project: V13 on its forum site, and a projected release date of 2012. Bethesda had earlier announced that it had licensed both the title and its Fallout 3 engine to Obsidian Entertainment, a group formed of many of the original developers of the Fallout series. The new group will release the game Fallout: New Vegas in fall of this year, and while not a sequel to Fallout 3, it will be a new story set in the same world with the same gameplay mechanics.

Things were looking good, but the celebrations by Fallout fans may have been premature, and the reports of the lawsuit’s death may have been greatly exaggerated. Bethesda executives have now released a statement to Game Informer that the company’s claims against Interplay have not been settled, and that Bethesda will continue to pursue the claims until they have been resolved.

The decision should not affect the development of Fallout: New Vegas, or the unannounced (but in the works) Fallout 4, but Interplay’s MMO might be in trouble unless the companies can reach a mutual agreement. Good news for Bethesda. Bad news for Fallout fans.