And it’s finally happened. Kotaku is reporting that Bethesda is suing Interplay for their failure to develop the Fallout MMO. Is there anybody out there who didn’t see this coming? I’m excepting as always, the troglodytes and mouth-breathers over at No Mutants Allowed and the rest of the so-called “Fallout community” (warning, following that link and reading anything on that site WILL make you stupid). By that, I don’t mean those hundreds of thousands of people who have rightly enjoyed Fallout 3 (many of whom have as it as their sole Fallout experience) or those like me who genuinely love the first two games in the series. I mean those who, their loud protestations to the contrary, have never forgiven the universe for not stopping the clock in 1998 and Interplay for daring to go out of business.
Yes, I said go out of business. I bear no malice at all towared the tiny shell that currently bears the name Interplay and if the seven employees over there manage to magically produce a Fallout MMO, I’ll be thrilled. Good luck, God bless. Let’s be honest, though. It’s not going to happen. Whatever Interplay used to be, it’s been a mere ghost of that for many years — exactly what it was when it sold the rights to Fallout to Bethesda in a wild gamble at creating a Fallout MMO. You don’t need a crystal ball to figure that out, either. The company itself admits as much in their public 10K report. Check out this list of “Risk Factors:”
WE CURRENTLY HAVE SOME OBLIGATIONS THAT WE ARE UNABLE TO MEET WITHOUT GENERATING ADDITIONAL INCOME OR RAISING ADDITIONAL CAPITAL.
As of December 31, 2008, our cash balance was approximately $0 and our working capital deficit totaled approximately $2.4 million.
We are currently operating without a credit agreement or credit facility. There can be no assurance that we will be able to enter into a new credit agreement or that if we do enter into a new credit agreement, it will be on terms favorable to us.
We are presently without a CFO, and Mr. Caen has assumed the position of interim-CFO and continues as CFO to date until a replacement can be found.
These are not the business conditions that make me want to go out and purchase Interplay stock. I’d get a better ROI selling my old comic books on Ebay.
I’m not entirely certain why Bethesda agreed to this deal in the first place. I can however, envisage a scenario where they get a substantial discount off the price of the original IP purchase in return for essentially waiting for Interplay to fail in which case they would then be able to sweep in and be able to do the Fallout MMO themselves. And if Interplay had succeeded — great! It’s a win/win for Bethesda either way. As for Interplay, well, they were selling the last valuable asset they had in a gamble to keep themselves alive and capitilize on the potential success of a Fallout MMO. If they’ve failed to realize that, well there’s certainly no shame there. Businesses fail all the time. I’m sure the principles and employees currently at Interplay will be fine.
What gets me are the idiot Fallout fanboys and their venom toward Bethesda for doing exactly what anyone in their position would — protecting their intellectual property rights and insisting that Interplay live up to the terms of its agreements. I don’t have any knowledge whether Bethesda is correct in its allegations, of course, but there’s certainly nothing immoral in a perfectly sensible business decision. There’s this perverse romantic streak in the hard-core Fallout community that somehow believes that they not only have a right to “their” Fallout 3 — done of course in a “proper Fallout style” — but that going business concerns should somehow modify intelligent business practices to tailor to them because the original Fallout games were so good and they love them so much.
And please don’t pull out the old “We’re the audience, they should listen to us.” Here’s a news flash — when it comes to Fallout, you are not the audience. The “audience” for Fallout are those millions of people happily shelling out the shekels for Mothership: Zeta and racking up Xbox 360 Acheivements. Full disclosure: I was the product manager for Fallout: Tactics, a decent though not stellar stratgy game based in the Fallout universe. I loved working at Interplay and am proud to have been connected, however tangentially, to the Fallout games and the great people who worked on them. Having said that, the Fallout games as represented by Fallout 1 and 2 are history. Everyone involved with them has moved on — in many cases quite successfully — and the Fallout universe is in the hands of people who obviously love the franchise and are not beholden to you in any way.
Here’s a little secret: The original Fallout games were not terribly successful. Not that they were failures, of course, but even by the standards of the late ’90s they garnered much more in critical acclaim, fan love and industry respect than they ever did in cold, hard cash. While I won’t reveal proprietary numbers, Bethesda does more with the franchise in five minutes than Interplay did with it in its whole history. Knowing that, it makes Bethesda rescuing the franchise from oblivion (no pun intended) even more worthy of respect. They had access to the same numbers when they were considering purchasing the rights to the game. They did it out of love for the universe and the belief that they could bring both the same critical acclaim and the success that had eluded it under Interplay’s care. They were right.