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Grumpy Old Gamer vs. Interplay & The Fallout MMOG

Grumpy Old Gamer

Grumpy Old Gamer vs. Interplay & The Fallout MMOG

Fallout 3Blues News has posted a blurb from another website about some rustling about of the players in the Fallout world – Bethesda the current owner – Interplay the previous owner and Masthead Studios. As a devout WOW player of more than 5000 hours into that game and a veteran of other MMOs, I had projected the success of Fallout the MMO about 6 years ago. It appears that I am not the only one as the players above have started their dance…

Wasteland, as it was originally called, has been caught up in a weird history in that every company that has owned it has tried to protect the name and the franchise for itself. Wasteland was originally marketed by Electronic Arts and their “sell your self to the devil” total control deals of publishing. In fact when Interplay got the game and writers they had to change the title to Fallout since EA wouldn’t let them use Wasteland. Interplay marketed well the game as the Fallout series, with only Brotherhood of Steel being the only real stinker that killed it.

As the MMO frenzy hit the internet hard I had always felt that Fallout is the perfect environment for a non-scripted open ended playing MMOG. Interplay knew it as well so when they decided to sell the rights of Fallout – RPG to Bethesda Software they included a “license kick back” clause that would allow them to “retain” the rights to Fallout MMOG.  This was April 4th, 2007.

Bethesda then turned and churned out Fallout 3 by basically taking a new crayon box to their Oblivion game. I didn’t like the insult to the series aspect of F3 because imitation in gaming isn’t flattery – it’s lame. Still, I do play the game on occasion as a diversion from the games I actually like to play often, so in that use I guess is has its place.

Part of the deal with the Fallout sale and the “license kick back” clause for the MMOG aspect was the mandate that Interplay “commence full scale development and secure certain funding” within two years of the sale. Failure of Interplay to do so would allow Bethesda Software the ability to rescind that portion of the sales agreement and thus retain that genre aspect for their use.

EarthriseTwo weeks ago Interplay, in what one who does the homework can see is a major last ditch desperation attempt to save the game for themselves, enters into a “binding contract” with Masthead Studios out of Sofia, Bulgaria to produce Fallout MMOG. This reeks of suspicion when you look at what Masthead’s pilot game is: Earthrise. Earthrise is a post apocalyptic world (stop me if you’ve heard this theme before) set in the future MMOG. It is already in limited Beta and I might just try for a Beta slot to see how it plays since it does look nice from the screenshots. So one has to ask if they are so busy in this development of their flagship project, how are they going to “commence full scale development” on Fallout as well?

“Hey, I’ll give you $50k if you say that my company is developing my game with you. I have a deadline to make in 2 days else I lose the whole thing! Merci!” (This is fictitious of course, or is it?)

The battle is going to be fought and Interplay’s last ditch desperation and destitute $2.4 million deficit are going ensure that they have no chance to pull it out. Waiting until one week before the deadline and coming in lowball on finances isn’t even a worthy attempt, it’s a half-assed one. Bethesda will walk away with the rights and start developing the MMOG. Is that a good thing? Is it a bad thing?

Bethesda does have the stability and structure to develop, Interplay sold their selves out when they let the franchise go in any way, shape or form. Bethesda now looks into a very competitive market with one big ugly dog that says “bring it on”. There’s no competition for the big numbers of the market share in MMOG – Blizzard clearly dominates the genre with World of Warcraft. Instead it will have to poise itself to fight for the 1% to 4% of the market shares that games like Everquest 2 and City of Heroes fight over. Any doubters should look at Vanguard and Pirates of the Burning Sea to see struggling in entry into this vicious market of games not called WOW.

BethesdaCreating and developing games to market is one thing but maintaining a worldwide server network and the demand of constantly changing content to maintain that cash flow you’re so hooked on receiving is another. Be careful what you wish for Bethesda…

As for the gamers out there I want to believe that our possibility of seeing one the most MMOG ready franchises in gaming history has taken a giant leap to becoming a reality.

That…is a good thing.

Au revoir, Herve.

Michael "=][= Maximus" Kerr - April 2008