The legal battle between Bethesda and Interplay over the rights to make an MMO based on the Fallout franchise has at last been resolved. Basically: Bethesda wins, but owes Interplay $2 million.
The story goes that back in 1997, Interplay created the first Fallout game, an RPG that became a big hit on the PC. This was followed by Interplay’s sequels Fallout: Tactics and Fallout 2. The series then languished in development hell for ten long years before Bethesda acquired the rights to create sequels to the series, and developed Fallout 3, which transformed the top-down RPG into a first-person shooter hybrid, a la Mass Effect or Deus Ex. It was a hit, and spawned loads of DLC and eventually Fallout: New Vegas.
In late 2006, while Bethesda was hard at work on Fallout 3, the people at Interplay decided they wanted to create an MMO based on the franchise. Bethesda executives gave a provisional okay, so long as Interplay could raise the $30 million needed to build the game, and start development by April 2009. That date came and gone with no MMO funding on Interplay’s part, but they refused to give back the rights, saying they would still create the game eventually. Bethesda balked, wanting back the rights to create the Fallout MMO themselves. And the inevitable legal battle ensued.
Earlier this month, the court ruled in Bethesda’s favor, awarding them the entire franchise and all rights to future Fallout game development including the MMO, although Interplay still has the right to sell their original three Fallout games for two more years, and Bethesda is required to pay Interplay $2 million. Both parties are required to pay their own legal costs for the five-year battle.
It should be noted that just because Bethesda now has the right to build a Fallout-based MMO doesn’t mean they’ll do so immediately. But hey — they wouldn’t have sunk five years of legal costs and a $2 million settlement into this if they had no intention of doing it at all.