Post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer online game Fallout Online could be dead before launch after it emerged publisher Interplay is close to financial ruin.
Interplay's astonishing financial situation was revealed by an SEC document reported by Develop.
It warns that Interplay could face bankruptcy and may have to generate funds by selling the company.
The games threatened by Interplay's financial strife are Fallout Online, DSiWare game ClayFighter, WiiWare games Stonekeep and Descent, and Earthworm Jim 4.
If Interplay does not find some money soon, these games could be cancelled. It said it's prepared to accept "a sale or merger of the company".
Interplay has been embroiled in a long-running legal battle with Fallout 3 maker Bethesda, which wants to terminate development of Fallout Online.
In January Interplay told Eurogamer it could end up developing the sixth Fallout game if Bethesda successfully prevents it from releasing Fallout Online.
President Eric Caen said his company was "ready to fight for years if necessary" over the future of the MMO.
"We sold the Fallout IP to Bethesda in exchange for a certain amount of cash and the right to do the Fallout MMO," he said. "If they refuse to let us do the game, then the sale of the IP is terminated, and they will be allowed to do only one more Fallout, 5.
"But in that case, the IP will come back to us, and of course, we will complete our work and release Fallout MMO."
Bethesda purchased the rights to the Fallout franchise from Interplay in 2004 for $5.75 million. It licensed the online rights back to the publisher before starting development on Fallout 3.
Interplay announced its intent to release a Fallout MMO soon after that deal was signed, with a release currently slated for 2012. But a legal tug of war over the future of the game has put its release in doubt.
The latest development saw Bethesda hit back at Interplay's claim that its attempt to derail its planned Fallout MMO was "absurd". Bethesda had claimed 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".
"We have confidence in justice, and we should win this case," Caen said. "But the decision isn't in our hands."
Interplay has so far refrained from showing much from Fallout Online because "anything we show will help Bethesda in their fight".