Confused squinting at legal dispute time! We've known for a while that Fallout 1/2 publishers Interplay had clung onto rights for a Fallout MMO as part of their skin-saving deal to flog the Fallout 3 license to Bethesda, and a few months back the reborn publisher had coolly revealed they have one 'Project V13' in the pipeline. Deal done, right? Apparently not. Bethesda may now dispute Interplay's right to make Fallout Online...
(In a rare moment of objectivity, I'll attempt to keep my own opinions in check here, as they're likely entirely irrelevant in the face of the legal issues around this.) Motivating Bethesda's possible about-face is a clause stating Interplay had to have secured $30m funding and commenced full-scale development of a Fallout MMO by April 4th this year, otherwise the rights would revert to the big B.
And here it gets muddy. Interplay have made a fair amount of noise about working on an MMO, hiring two of the original Fallout team (one of which has since walked out in favour of an RPG that some have speculated is a sequel to Wasteland, the original inspiration for the Fallout series) and bringing in Masthead, the Bulgarian studio currently working on Earthrise to provide legwork and funding. Plus, Interactive Game Group (headed up by a former Atari CEO) last year purchased 2,000,000 Interplay shares. Sounds like enough, right?
Well, Masthead only came onboard on April 2, which is perilously close to that April 4th deadline. So the question is whether Interplay really has fired up its engines yet, or if they're still at the planning stages - in which case they haven't met the conditions of the 2007 Bethesda agreement.
So far, Bethesda have only made noises about cancelling the agreement as a result, rather than going ahead with any legal action just yet. Interplay certainly seem to think it's coming, however.
Who's right? Well, if Interplay genuinely haven't got anything solid to show yet then they've not met their half of the bargain. On the other hand, there clearly is something in motion, and for Bethesda to potentially axe someone else's in-development project seems pretty harsh. Again though, opinions scarcely matter in the face of a binding contract. Just as well, really - it's rather tricky to work out who's the good guy in this particular fight.