War Never Changes…. Licensing Issues Don’t Either
For those of you who happen to love the Fallout series, you’ve probably heard about a MMO based in the Fallout universe that goes under the name Fallout Online or Project V13. For anyone confused by the second title, the “V13” most likely stands for “Vault 13”, which was the vault that the player character from the first game came from. Fallout Online has been in development by Interplay (the company that developed and published the games before Bethesda bought the license) since 2006, although it was still in the planning stages. In 2007, Bethesda purchased the licensing rights to Fallout, but according to the legal agreement between the two companies, Interplay would still have the right to release a Fallout MMO.
However, in 2009, Bethesda decided that they didn’t want Interplay having a piece of that delicious Fallout pie that they paid so handsomely for. So they told Interplay that the license agreement between the two companies would be terminated, under the claims that Interplay was in violation of the agreement. On September 8, 2009 Bethesda filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Interplay. Bethesda has argued that certain conditions would have to be met for the licensing agreement to remain for the Fallout MMO, one such condition being that Interplay would have to enter a stage of full-scale development for the game by April 4, 2009 with a minimum set budget, among other conditions. Bethesda claimed that certain conditions had not been met in the agreement, and therefore the agreement was cancelled by default, which Interplay contested. The lawsuit is still ongoing and Interplay has been given permission by the court to continue developing Fallout Online until the case is settled.
In the most recent turn of this case, Bethesda is making a rather odd, and admittedly nonsensical claim. They are claiming that the agreement was that Interplay only had the license to the name Fallout for the MMO, which, if true, would imply that they expected Interplay to make a completely different storyline for the game, not connected at all with the Fallout universe, but still bear the same name. Interplay countered this by saying Bethesda knew that the Fallout MMO would take place in the iconic post-apocalyptic wasteland, and they had made no objections during the agreement. Most recently, Interplay has stated they intend to begin a public beta testing for the game sometime in 2012
On a personal note, I happen to love Fallout 3 and New Vegas, and I actually prefer them over the original games (though I’m sure there are those that would vehemently disagree with my stance), but even I find this as a low-blow from Bethesda. It must feel pretty terrible to be told that you can’t create something new based on something you had previously created. But to play devil’s advocate, Interplay DID sell the Fallout IP to Bethesda, so they should have considered the possibility that something like this would happen.