The future of MMO Fallout Online was cast in doubt today after it emerged that Bethesda and Interplay were still embroiled in a thought-settled lawsuit over the post-apocalyptic IP.
Apparently Bethesda continues to argue it owns all the Fallout IP rights. It claims it gave Interplay rights over the Fallout trademark and nothing else, meaning it had no right to use essential Fallout ingredients such as weapon art and game concepts, for example the Pip Boy and what's called the "World Bible".
Which would, of course, make making a Fallout MMO game very difficult.
The upshot of all this, according to games lawyer Jas Purewal, is that Bethesda could block the release of Fallout Online or have it transferred to Bethesda's ownership.
The battle for supremacy over the Fallout MMO is a tale of mudslinging and counterclaims. In 2007 Interplay sold Fallout to Bethesda, which went on to create open-world epic Fallout 3.
However, part of the deal was an agreement that Interplay would retain the right to develop a Fallout MMO. It has sent newsletter updates out to gamers sporadically over the course of the last few months. You can sign up for the beta.
In 2009 Bethesda sued Interplay, claiming it had breached its agreement. Bethesda said Interplay had forfeited all remaining rights in the Fallout IP. Interplay denied and counterclaimed.
In 2009 Bethesda unsuccessfully applied to a court for a preliminary injunction effectively prohibiting Interplay from doing anything with the Fallout IP until the resolution of the lawsuit. The court refused. Bethesda appealed, then dropped its appeal.
It then emerged that Interplay was using Fallout under license from Bethesda, which suggested a degree of cooperation between the two companies.
And in October Interplay claimed the long-in development MMO would launch in the second half of 2012.
The company has so far refrained from showing much from the game because "anything we show will help Bethesda in their fight", Interplay president Eric Caen said.
"It's worth remembering that ultimately all of this remains to be tested in the litigation, so the ownership and the future of the Fallout IP is still undecided," Purewal added.
The case continues.