Bethesda to Interplay: Hands Off Our Fallout IP

When Fallout Online was announced more than 3 years ago, it sounded like a great idea. Sure, Interplay had just sold the general Fallout IP to Bethesda, but they successfully obtained the license to Fallout Online from Bethesda – under ‘limited circumstances’. That should have made everyone pause, but then Bethesda went and made the best game in the history of the series. Suddenly, an MMO set in the incredible Fallout 3 universe, Pip Boy radio station magic and all, seemed like a very real possibility.

Unfortunately it turned out that Bethesda and Interplay didn’t get along as well as everyone thought, and things quickly devolved into a bitter court battle over the rights to use Bethesda’s original Fallout universe content. And as reported today by Gamasutra, that court battle just went in an unfortunate direction:

According to the latest round of court documents — obtained by Gamasutra — Bethesda aims to make it exceedingly difficult for Interplay’s Fallout Online to contain any references to the known Fallout universe at all, in both marketing materials and the MMO itself.

Bethedsa bought Fallout in 2007 for $5.75 million, and licensed the Fallout MMO trademark back to Interplay, under certain conditions.

On November 19, Fallout property holder Bethesda said in an amended complaint that Interplay is illicitly using Fallout assets to market Fallout Online.

That last bit might sound laughable – how can the Fallout MMO illicitly use Fallout assets? Is this like when George Harrison’s manager Alan Klein bought the rights to the song He’s So Fine while George was being sued for plagiarizing it (which totally f’d him over?)

Specifically, Bethesda recently took issue with Interplay using the Fallout logo and the “Vault Boy” icon to market Fallout Online on the Fallout-On-Line.com website. The website features other recognizable Fallout symbols like the two-headed Brahmin cattle, the mention of the Fallout character “Harold” and other icons of the series.

Bethesda said that in June, Interplay sought approval for the materials used on the website, and then rejected the request. But Interplay allegedly went ahead and put the website live anyway, using the rejected material.

For their part, Interplay claims that Bethesda is essentially reneging on the terms of their licensing agreement. I’d speculate that Bethesda have their own plans for the Franchise, and see an MMO version as a threat to it, so they’re trying to kill it in the womb, but that would be irresponsible. Even so, it’s certainly probable that if Interplay is denied the use of critical imagery and concepts that have come to define the series, it would be a killing blow to the legitimacy of the planned MMO, and that alone reeks of trying to ghettofy the game.

Gamasutra has been all over this case, and the full article is worth a look for more details. I’m not particularly big on MMO’s myself, but those of you who are, what do you think? Would a pip boy/logo-free Fallout feel like drinking generic “cola” instead of Coke? Would you play it anyway? Sound off in comments.

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