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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

The Fine Print of a Fallout MMO

Posted by Daedren Thursday November 6 2008 at 7:44AM
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At last! Fallout 3 has swept into our gaming lives, and most people are happy. The game, in my opinion, is pretty damn good. Of course, with a good game like that, coupled with a heap of old-school game fans, it's easy to get all moist on the mere thought of turning the Fallout universe into a MMO. I'm as excited as the next guy at the thought of having anything as cool as the Fallout series take a leap into the genre. In fact, I like the IP enough where I've actually based my theoretical game designs on Fallout (it was either that or Neuromancer, of course) and I even hang out at the craziest, most dedicated fan site that has ever existed for any game: No Mutants Allowed. In my limited dealings with real, actual people in the games industry, I've even been lucky enough to chat with a few of the former Black Isle and Interplay guys. So, it pains me more than anything to say: the Fallout MMO probably won't happen for a long, long time. Sad Panda is sad.

Of course I can't just go spouting stuff like that without some sort of logical argument. So, let's take a look at the Fallout wiki site, that fills us in on some of the boring (although quite relevant) legal status of the Fallout MMO. Basically, it revolves around Interplay being Bethesda's little bitch in every way, shape, and form. Remember a couple years ago when Bethesda bought the Fallout IP but Interplay retained the "rights" to a MMO? There are stipulations. Those are:

  • Interplay has to raise $30 Million by April, 2009.
  • Interplay has to start development by April, 2009.
  • Interplay must launch the Fallout MMO no later than 4 years from starting development (April, 2013).
  • Interplay must pay 12% of subscription fees in royalties to Bethesda if they somehow actually launch the game.

If any of these are not met, Interplay forfeits the rights to the Fallout MMO. (Source)

I want to point something specifically out in this little arrangement (which sounds more like a Mafia deal than a real business arrangement). The initial proposal for the Fallout MMO projected the cost of development between $75M - $100M. That means if Interplay does indeed secure the magic "30 Million" that they're still over 60% under budget for actually making the game. Normally this wouldn't be too big of a deal, as game studios normally don't have a strict production schedule. Unfortunately, this situation is far from normal, and even if Interplay could start production on a Fallout MMO in 2009, they have a strict 4 years to get it out the door - no matter what state it's in.

To compare, games like World of Warcraft and Warhammer had $70M+ budgets and took 4+ years to develop. Oh, and Warcraft had a team of vets from games like UO, Asheron's Call and Everquest helming it up, not to mention Mythic having the Dark Age team at its disposal. Interplay has a couple of the original Fallout guys (Chris Taylor and Jason Andersen) - and, while talented, have no MMO experience whatsoever.

For arguments sake, we can assume that a Fallout MMO could be made in 4 years with the projected budget of $75M. That leaves us to question Interplays ability to secure investments. While the recent success and hype of Fallout 3 might reassure investors that the IP is workable as a MMO, putting money into Interplay is going to be a tough sell to anyone with money. We're talking about a company that, 2 years ago, was over $5M in debt and had to sell it's top IP just to not get their knees broken.

So, in a nutshell:

  • Interplay, a company in financial disarray, needs 30M large to just start production on the game.
  • Interplay currently staffs no experienced MMO developer of any sort
  • Interplay has a strict 4 years to release the game, no matter what the state is
  • Interplay then has to pay 12% royalty to Bethesda and can also not profit from any Fallout IP related merchandise.

In short, it's not looking good for an Interplay based Fallout MMO. I have a gut feeling that of the $30M that Interplay needs to raise, they have about $29M to go. Only one public announcement has been made of investment (and it was for 2M shares of Interplay, not even $1M USD). Sadly I don't think Interplay has the mettle or the personnel to be trying to keep everything all secret squirrel. Unless Santa comes with a fat check this Christmas, it looks like it's going to be permanent lights out for good ol' Interplay.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light is: ZeniMax Studios.

It's not the coolest name for a game studio, but whatever. This studio is Bethesda's little secret. At the moment, they're officially working on something that seems to be interestingly uninteresting. They bought a MMO game engine license that makes it look like they're doing, well, something. What I think they are doing is just biding their time. They are probably just laying the groundwork for their potential Fallout MMO, which they'll have rights to in either May 2009 or May 2013, whenever Interplay decides to concede victory and try to escape the country without being killed by their investors.

ZeniMax and Bethesda will have exclusive rights to the Fallout IP and MMO as soon as Interplay officially voids the contract. From the above keypoints, it's probable that this will happen. The MMO industry is a fickle and dangerous business to be in. Bethesda has both the talent (and more importantly) the cash to back a huge MMO project. In fact, when you think of it, Bethesda was pretty sly about this whole thing: they bought the Fallout IP rights from Interplay, probably discounted for the Fallout MMO rights. They then put these stipulations into the contract - knowing that they'd be done with Fallout 3 in Q4 2008 or Q1 2009 - enough time to revive the Fallout IP interest and then dive into the Fallout MMO in April 2009 - since they seem to know that Interplay can't possibly raise $30M on this speculative venture.

So, maybe it won't be a long, long time. Actually, ZeniMax seems to have their shit together (no surprise) more than Interplay for the Fallout MMO - as they've already got an engine picked out and possibly have a team (not just a couple guys) actually working on the game. They could have it out and humming by, say, 2011 or 2012 if things go well. I guess all that's left for us to do is sit back and enjoy some Nuka Cola, since it looks like the boys at Bethesda have us covered.

 

Fallout Online - ZeniMax Entertainment

Coming 2012

That's my prediction anyway!

 

Original article here.

megafluxmega writes:

useful info here? on this site? in a blog?

you just blew my mind.

i see it as possible still, i mean alot of games are made fast and cheap and then rushed out the door. i would totally rather see bethesda do it though, they take their time and do shit properly.

that was seriously a good read, thanks.

Thu Nov 06 2008 9:27AM Report
SXRchosen1 writes:

Very good read!

I love to see a well made Fallout MMO done right.

 

Thu Nov 06 2008 10:03AM Report
Daedren writes:

@megafluxmega: according to my readers, I have a 43% chance of producing an article with actual value and merit. ;) 

Anyway, I just mirror my blog here at MMORPG.com - so sorry it's not exclusive! They didn't want me to write for them. Too opiniated or something like that.

I'm following the Fallout MMO with great interest (I have a both personal and professional reason to do so) - so I'll be sure to spread the word when I know something.

Thanks for the feedback, as always.

Thu Nov 06 2008 10:34AM Report
SpaceMonk3y writes:

Dude I just filled the cup!  Let Bethesda take the reigns on this .. PLEASE give us a Fallout MMO!!!!

Thu Nov 06 2008 10:53AM Report
ABRaquel writes:

BEVERLY HILLS, CA, Setember 22, 2008 – Interplay Entertainment Corp. (OTC BB:IPLY) announced today the launch of an all-new web site at www.interplay.com.

The site, developed over the last several months, is designed to improve the company’s communication with customers, investors, and partners. The new site includes forums based on past and future Interplay games, a customer support section, detailed information on the company and its products, and much more.

The company also announced that Chris Taylor, a game designer who was a part of the original Fallout game development team at Interplay in 1994, has rejoined the company. Taylor will serve as Lead System Designer for “Project V13,” the working title of Interplay’s next generation Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) currently in development. Taylor joins other original Fallout team members on staff at Interplay’s internal game studio, which recently opened an office in Irvine, Calif. Additional development staff members continue to be hired as the project ramps-up.

Thu Nov 06 2008 11:04AM Report
alakram writes:

ZenimaX is more than probably working in a Elder Scrolls MMO. They already own the IP. And they already bought www.elderscrollsonline.com. A company doesnt buy a mmo engine to start develeopment over a IP they dont even still own in the hope that they will eventually get it in the future.

Thu Nov 06 2008 11:09AM Report
torious writes:

at least in the meantime we'll have Fallen Earth to play?

Thu Nov 06 2008 1:37PM Report
PinkCat writes:

I equally approve of this blog.  Nice read.

Thu Nov 06 2008 4:18PM Report
Arioc writes:

OMG this is the best blog post ever. References, links, opinions and educated guesses rather then emotional pontification. <sob> I love you man.

Also I agree with everything you said, and it's sad but true. It's getting harder to find funding for "out of the box" projects without an example of a successful template to show your investers to gain confidence in the project. The people with millions are not gamers, they may have never touched an xbox or ps3. They made their money crunching numbers and they understand sku's and userbase uniques.

That's why the guy who runs a company is a money guy, he pitches the projects in a mannor the investers comprehend and can get into. He dosn't sell em on how cool it is to set zombies on fire with flame arrows. But when you come up with stuff out of the box, investers are less likley to chip in due to not having the data to sell the project to em.

Thu Nov 06 2008 4:42PM Report
stayontarget writes:

Such a great world / enviroment as Fallout, It would be a crime to all gamers not to make an MMO. Someone needs a swift kick in the azz and get the ball rolling.

Fri Nov 07 2008 1:28AM Report
Firedorn writes:

Great read Daedren.  Thanks for this eloquent and thoughtful article.  Finally!  Someone who writes "a MMO" not "an MMO"... :)

Fri Nov 07 2008 7:38AM Report
Bustion writes:

While playing FO3 i never really thought about how cool a fallout mmo would be.  I just thought about how cool it would be if other mmos could recreate the immersion that FO3 brings.  So if the the likley hood of a fallout mmo sucks, then we can at least hope that the game will bring inspiration to mmo devs.

Fri Nov 07 2008 9:45AM Report
savaticus writes:

They can do this easily, they can buy an existing engine and quickly release an mmo based on the classic look and feel of the original game. They name it Fallout Online: Prequel. They make it free to play with a low susbscriber cost. That secures the right, in the money and in the time frame. Then they use the small amount they make of prequel and build the first "expansion", the expansion would then replace all of the existing code with the new mmo they built, or they release the better MMO as a seperate game and maintain both communities.

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Sun May 15 2011 11:07AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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