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Interplay: Bethesda wouldn't pay $50m for full Fallout rights

Eric Caen claims publisher thought MMO license too expensive

Interplay president Eric Caen has revealed that the publisher offered to sell Bethesda the rights to a Fallout MMO in the deal for other rights to the IP, but were turned down as the $50 million price tag was considered too expensive.

The rights are at the centre of an ongoing legal battle between the two companies, and hinges on an arrangement made when Bethesda purchased the Fallout IP in 2007.

Interplay had certain conditions to fulfil in order to be able to produce a Fallout MMO, with Bethesda arguing it has failed to meet them.

Speaking to Edge magazine in an interview, Eric Caen spoke about how his brother Hervé (then president of Interplay) had put a high price on the rights to a Fallout MMO.

"Hervé [Caen] started negotiations with Bethesda to sell Fallout to them. My brother said: 'If you want the full IP, the value of it is $50 million'" Caen told the magazine.

"They said: 'No way. Why $50 million?' We said: 'Because the MMOG strength of this universe is huge.' Bethesda said: 'We don't want that. Let's buy everything else but the MMOG. Do the MMOG.' They said that Interplay had to start development and by a certain time we had to have a full game in development."

In 2009, Bethesda sued Interplay over its reissuing of the original Fallout games in a triple pack entitled Fallout: Trilogy, claiming that it would cause confusion between that product and the Bethesda-produced Fallout 3.

That claim was subsequently denied in court with Interplay counter-suing Bethesda in return.

Speaking about the terms of the agreement, Eric Caen claimed time frame requirements had been met.

"They bought everything, but left Interplay with the licence to do the MMOG - under certain conditions, thinking that Interplay would never fulfil these conditions. But Interplay did. Spring 2009 - this is public information - Bethesda sends a termination letter to Interplay, saying: 'You did not fulfil your obligation.'

"So all the litigation is about that. I think Bethesda, off the back of Fallout 3's success, realised that Hervé was probably right about the value. They said: 'OK, how can we get that without paying?'"

Interplay is reportedly still working on a game entitled 'Project V13', which is widely believed to be the MMO in question. Legal proceedings continue.

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Latest comments (15)

Lawrence Makin Audio 6 years ago
Good on Interplay; Bethesda should've seen the potential and bought the rights on the spot. They must be kicking themselves after the huge success of Fo3.

The shame is that brand awareness for the franchise is now an utter shambles - first Interplay, then Bethesda, now both of them plus Obsidian.
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Matthew Norton Studio Director, San Francisco, Bigpoint6 years ago
$50M is too much for any game-only franchise, and possibly an even poorer investment for a post-apocalyptic one. Very few MMOs manage to move from production to profit and non-fantasy MMOs have a much smaller market to start with.

The franchise was allowed to languish for most of a decade before Bethesda picked up the torch. I also don't think that the newly reborn Interplay has the experience and ability to create a major MMO with any franchise.

Some payment for the additional parts of the IP are warranted, but $50M is shameless price gouging. Bethesda, if you really want to build a post-nuclear MMO, build your own franchise in the same background. After all, that's exactly what Fallout was when Interplay couldn't bring EA's Wasteland title over.
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Mark Hill Studying Computing & Networks, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
$50m is too much for the rights to pretty much any MMO, it's all risk and too little chance of reward. $50m puts the chances of an MMO's success down to about zero. Take a look at RTW's recent collapse, they went way over budget and spent ~$100m, and Interplay wanted Bethesda to start $50m in the tank before they even write printf("Hello, end of the world.")
Fallout is a strong brand, but it's not strong enough to put that big a bet (plus development costs) on.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mark Hill on 22nd October 2010 12:04pm

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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
I agree with Matthew really; $50 million is way too much to pay for the MMO rights to what was at the time a dormant franchise. Had Interplay been a bit more sensible they could have made a nice sum of money from this. But by being greedy, I expect they'll probably never get this game released, or if they do it won't be particularly remarkable or profitable.

Maybe Bethesda should buy the rights to Fallout precursor Wasteland and make an MMO from that instead! ;)
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Miguel Melo Principal Software Engineer/Product Manager 6 years ago
Fallout 3 is probably my favourite game in the last 10-15 years, but I must admit it is so because of the production values and, admittedly, the mix between retro-futuristic. And while you _may_ claim that the deco-futuristic vibe is somewhat linked with the Fallout property (though plagiarism claims would probably not be enforceable by law, if it ever came to court), the production quality is purely to Bethesda's credit. So, really, I agree it's probably not worth the $50m for the name and back story alone.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
The thing is, although I know that the original Fallout games have a strong dedicated following, most of the franchise's current value is because of Fallout 3, and as such, even if it was worth $50mill now, it wasn't at the time. The fact is, however much some people love the first Fallout games, far more people came to Fallout 3 from Oblivion.
That price now seems high, in 2007 it would have sounded like a poor joke.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 22nd October 2010 4:05pm

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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 6 years ago
Exactly right Andrew.

I have no problem with Interplay chancing their arm with an optimistic valuation at the inception of the deal.
I can even accept their rather cheeky attempt to cash in on Fallout 3 with their "rebranding" of the original product. But they must accept that Bethesda has actually turned the franchise into what they could only dream it would be.

In that sense I think that a fair outcome would have to recognise Bethesda's investment in this.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 6 years ago
I wonder how much Shiny paid for the Matrix license for that MMO?

Every cent wasted by the way. $50 million is how much Bethesda should buy Interplay for.
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Private Industry 6 years ago
The question is how much did Bethesda pay for the Fallout license that did not include the MMO game. depending on that you can say if it was smart or not. Not many MMO games out there make really money and Bethesda doens`t have experience with MMO games so it would not be a perfect fit especially if you have to pay a lot more for the license alone and then the development of the game without any prior experience in the genre.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
I say it was a smart move in the RTW/APB disaster sense, as a few folks have noted above. the MMO market is FAR too crowded with too many games from great to not so hot, free to play to pay up or else. The genre needs an enema badly, as it's ridiculous and only getting worse.

The problems and pitfalls of plenty of big name MMO's dying on the vine in assorted forms because somewhere along the line too much money was spent at the start and during development with no way of knowing just how responsive or loyal an audience will be (when it comes to delays, waiting for patches and such). I'm wondering how long FFXIV is going to limp along based on the reviews and feedback I've seen and heard. No doubt a ton of loot was poured into making the game, but since it's getting shot full of critical holes all over, I can't see Square Enix being that stubborn to cook up another MMO like it afterward.

Then again, Wakfu was a really nice surprise, as it's a tactical/MMO with grid-based combat and a super cartoony art style that's more Maple Story than the overbeefed Unreal-powered stuff they're pumping out elsewhere.

Off topic, while I think BioWare is probably going to have a hit with The Old Republic, you're dealing with a franchise there that has a much larger fan base than the Fallout series that will kill someone dead if the game isn't close to perfect. Fallout fans I know seem to come in a few camps. Some hate the newer games (and Bethsoft for "messing" with "their" classics), some want more Vault action 'til the two-headed cows come home and others could care less about another MMO no matter what it is.

Oh well... I hope this project doesn't end up killing Interplay. Guess we'll have to find out...
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Private Industry 6 years ago
How well the old republic will be doing still needs to be seen. I`m a bit put off by the look of it. I would have preferred a more realistic look like in KotOR instead of a look that`s somewhere between KotOR and Clone Wars.

It`s crowed now, but when they where talking about the license it was 2007 and at that time every company wanted to have an RPG. Of course the biggest problem would have been Bethesda not having any experience with MMO games, an outdated engine and not the most bug free games. Do like the Fallout games, but the engine is outdated. Rockstar showed very well how to make an open world game that looks good and is not full of bugs with RDR. Fallout has a bigger scale and smaller bugs here and there can`t be prevented, but some of the issues are not really small and MMOs are a lot more complex. So it was a good decision in regards to the abillities of Bethesda.
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London6 years ago
Would have been a waste of money. Slapping an IP onto an MMO isn't enough for success in the genre or a GOOD GAME.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
^^ The problem I have with the Old Republic are the dopes who keep falling over themselves GUSHING over the damn CG movies (which, yes, look a-m-a-z-i-n-g). I've hated the use of them from the very first one because there was no way that the game would match that sort of cinematic flair. You shouldn't have to have a good-looking faux version of the game you WANT to play in your head as a template for what you THINK the actual game will look and play like.

The actual game looks OK, but yeah... not quite what I think of when I envision that universe. then again, I'm old enough to recall seeing the original movie back in '77 on a double feature with an ancient UK sci-fi "gem" The Terronauts...

As much as I love BioWare, I'd have preferred another single player experience with some sort of OPTIONAL online co-op component. If the game fails (and it might not based on the game itself, but on the current economy and people cutting back on certain forms of entertainment who simply can't afford a new MMO to play).

And yup, Adam - you hit that nail on the head.

g.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
Completely off topic, but wasn't it Terrahawks, Greg?

Anyway, I agree with the sentiments about just having BioWare make KotOR 3; perhaps with some online elements, but not having the onus on being massively multiplayer. But I guess that doesn't have a 'guaranteed' ongoing income like an MMO does, which is why ever big publisher wants to try their luck with one. I think if The Old Republic fails commercially (and I suspect it'll get at least a million or two subscribers, whatever the critical reception, but it's retaining then growing that initial audience), it will be the last major effort by a publisher trying to take on WoW.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 25th October 2010 12:56pm

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Radu Ciu Product Manager, Alliance Computers6 years ago
Last major effort until the next one Terence. Alot is still unknown about The Old Republic at the moment, i hope Bioware will at least be able to say they were not rushed while doing it and the payment method won't be some micro-payment nightmare.

Returning to Fallout, while Bethesda made Fallout 3 a great success the connection to fallout 1,2 is a slim one at best. I believe they would have been better off by doing their own IP.
Being a former Fallout fan myself i do not like the dirrection the franchise has taken and i did not and will not buy Fallout 3 or New Vegas.

Unrelated of course the company i work for deeply admires Bethesda's work and will continue distributing the title on the Romanian market.
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