Bethesda announces the end to the recent legal conflict over the rights to publish an MMO set in the Fallout universe as the rights revert back to the Skyrim developer and its parent company, ZeniMax.
For a couple of years now, Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax, who currently hold the rights to the Fallout franchise, have been tussling in court with Interplay, the original developers of Fallout who sold the rights to the series to ZeniMax with the exception of a license to develop an MMO. According to a mail sent out by ZeniMax and Bethesda, Interplay was found to have "failed to meet the conditions for the license and the license was therefore of no continuing validity." Essentially, ZeniMax granted Interplay the rights to make the MMO as long as the latter could secure $30 million and start active development by 2009—conditions which ZeniMax maintains Interplay was never able to meet. As a condition of the final settlement, Interplay must pay $2 million to ZeniMax and neither company is on the hook for the others' legal expenses.
Another company, Masthead Studios, was also brought into the suit after they were hired by Interplay to develop the MMO and ZeniMax considered them infringing on the Fallout copyright. At issue here was Interplay's ability to sublicense Fallout to another company without ZeniMax's permission. Masthead has conceded that it has no rights to make a Fallout MMO, ending that separate piece of litigation.
Now that the dust has settled, the big question—for gamers, at least—is what does this mean for the future of any kind of Fallout MMO? As Bethesda digs deeper into the single-player console and PC experience, are they still thinking about creating a multiplayer experience in that world?
Either way, expect whatever work was done on the MMO to start trickling out as these things always tend to do.