The legal battle between Bethesda and Interplay is finally over and ZeniMax (a parent company of Bethesda) has officially announced a settlement between the two companies. In basic terms this means that Bethesda has regained the rights to start developing a Fallout massively multiplayer online game.
Rumors about a Fallout MMO being developed by Interplay began circulating in 2006 and were confirmed in 2008. At the time, Christopher Taylor, one the franchise’s original creators, was also involved in the project. In 2004, when Bethesda Softworks got the rights to start working on Fallout games, the company could develop pretty much everything, except an MMO set in the Fallout universe, but Bethesda allowed Interplay to start that project as long as it met a specific criteria which meant that (among other things) Interplay had to secure at least $30 million for developing the game and needed to start full scale development of the game by April 2009. Interplay kept the rights but failed to meet these conditions and the game eventually became part of a fierce legal dispute, so in 2009 the two publisher companies sued each other for the rights to the MMO project.
Furthermore and according to the settlement, apart from transferring the rights for the game (this means that Interplay has no right to use the Fallout brand or the IP in any way,) ZeniMax will pay Interplay $2 million for unknown reasons, though apparently this will be some kind of compensation. As of right know, Interplay owns the rights for Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics and all the merchandise associated with those properties and will continue to do so until December, 2013. During that month the rights will be fully transferred.
ZeniMax chairman and CEO Robert Altman concluded that: “While we strongly believe in the merits of our suits, we are pleased to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation while completely resolving all claims to the Fallout IP. Fallout is an important property of ZeniMax and we are now able to develop future Fallout titles for our fans without third party involvement or the overhang of others’ legal claims.”
It hasn’t been explained what will happen with those digital services that are currently selling the original trilogy of games. Good Old Games, GameTap and OnLive have all been selling Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics as digital downloads for a while now and it’s uncertain if they will be able to keep selling them after December 2013. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the official Fallout Online website has been taken down.