Interplay Entertainment

Interplay Entertainment Corp.
Public
Traded as OTC Pink: IPLY
Industry Video game industry
Founded November 1983; 35 years ago (1983-11) in Irvine, California, U.S.
Founders
Headquarters ,
U.S.
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Hervé Caen (CEO)
Products
Website interplay.com

Interplay Entertainment Corp. is an American video game developer and publisher based in Los Angeles. The company was founded in November 1983 as Interplay Productions by developers Brian Fargo, Jay Patel, Troy Worrell and Bill Heineman,[a] as well as investor Chris Wells. As a developer, Interplay is best known as the creator of the Fallout series and as a publisher for the Baldur's Gate and Descent series.

History

Interplay Productions

The logo used for Interplay Productions on the cover of Wasteland; Brian Fargo stated that the logo was intended to resemble a person seated in front of a keyboard. [3]

Prior to Interplay, the company's founding developers, Brian Fargo, Troy Worrell, Jay Patel and Bill Heineman,[a] worked for Boone Corporation, a video game developer based in California.[4] When Boone eventually folded, the four got together with investor Chris Wells and, believing they could create company that was better than Boone, founded in Interplay in November 1983.[4][5] The first projects were non-original and consisted of software conversions and even some military work for Loral Corporation.[6] After negotiations with Activision, Interplay entered a US$100,000 contract to produce three illustrated text adventures for them.[6] Published in 1984, Mindshadow is loosely based on Robert Ludlum's Bourne Identity while The Tracer Sanction puts the player in the role of an interplanetary secret agent. Borrowed Time which features a script by Arnie Katz' Subway Software followed in 1985. These adventures built upon work previously done by Fargo: his first game was the 1981-published Demon's Forge.[6]

Interplay's parser was developed by Fargo and an associate and in one version understands about 250 nouns and 200 verbs as well as prepositions and indirect objects.[7] In 1986, Tass Times in Tonetown followed. Interplay made a name for itself as a quality developer of role-playing video games with the three-part series The Bard's Tale (1985–1988), critically acclaimed Wasteland (1988) and Dragon Wars (1989). All of them were published by Electronic Arts.[citation needed]

Interplay started publishing its own games, starting with Neuromancer and Battle Chess, in 1988, and then moved on to publish and distribute games from other companies, while continuing internal game development. In 1995, Interplay published the hit game Descent, developed by startup Parallax Software. Interplay published several Star Trek video games, including Star Trek: 25th Anniversary for computers and for Nintendo Entertainment System and Star Trek: Judgment Rites. These games had later CD-ROM editions released with the original Star Trek cast providing voices. Interplay also published Starfleet Academy and Klingon Academy games, and Starfleet Command series, beginning with Star Trek: Starfleet Command. Another game, Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury, was in development in the late 1990s but was never completed and much of its staff laid off due to budgetary cuts prompted by various factors. In 1995, after several years of delays, Interplay finally published its role-playing game Stonekeep. Other PC games released during the mid- to late 1990s included Carmageddon, Fragile Allegiance, Hardwar and Redneck Rampage.[citation needed]

In 1997, Interplay developed and released Fallout, a successful and critically acclaimed role-playing video game set in a retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic setting. Black Isle Studios, a newly created in-house developer, followed with the sequel, Fallout 2, in 1998. Another successful subsequent Interplay franchise was Baldur's Gate, a Dungeons & Dragons game that was developed by BioWare and which spawned a successful expansion, sequel and spin-off series. The spin-off series started with Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance; the game's success forged a sequel as well. Aside from Dark Alliance, Interplay published a few notable console series such as Loaded and the fighting game series ClayFighter and the games by Shiny Entertainment, MDK and Wild 9.[citation needed]

Interplay Entertainment

By 1998, the financial situation at Interplay was dire and the company was in bankruptcy court. To avert bankruptcy, Interplay went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the name Interplay Entertainment.[8]

Interplay continued to endure losses under Brian Fargo due to increased competition, less than stellar returns on Interplay’s sports division and the lack of console titles. This forced Interplay to seek additional funding two years later with an investment from Titus Software, a Paris-based game company. Titus agreed to invest 25 million dollars in Interplay and a few months later this was followed up by an additional 10 million investment.[9] Interplay also owned half of the UK based publisher Virgin Interactive with Titus owning half of the company, with this Interplay would be able to publish Virgin's games in North America. Even though Interplay released critically acclaimed games such as Descent 3 and FreeSpace 2 the company reported several additional quarters of losses.[citation needed]

By 2001, Titus Software completed its acquisition of majority control of Interplay. Immediately afterwards, they shed most of Interplay's publisher functions and signed a long-term agreement under which Vivendi Universal would publish Interplay's games. Eventually, Interplay founder Brian Fargo departed at the start of 2002 to found InXile Entertainment as Fargo's plan to change Interplay's main focus from PC gaming to console gaming failed.[10]

Herve Caen took over the role of CEO to perform triage and made several unpopular but arguably necessary decisions to cancel various projects, in order to save the company. Interplay sold Shiny Entertainment to Infogrames and several game properties while closing BlueSky Software. Due to a low share price, Interplay's shares were delisted from the NASDAQ in 2002 and now trade on the over the counter (OTC) market.[11] In Interplay's European operations were completely sold to Titus Software in 2002 which included their share of Virgin Interactive, which Titus renamed to Avalon Interactive in August 2003, with this Titus had complete control to publish and distribute Interplay's games in Europe under the Avalon Interactive name. On December 8, 2003, Interplay laid off the entire Black Isle Studios staff.[12] The company got involved in issues including debt. Feargus Urquhart later left Black Isle Studios and the Interplay suffered a loss of 20 million USD during the year.[13]

In 2005, Titus Software filed for bankruptcy and closed down all their assets which Interplay acquired parts of. The bankruptcy of Titus led to Interplay being burdened with debt. Interplay faced bankruptcy again and was brought to bankruptcy court in 2006. To pay off creditors the company altered its licensing agreement with Bethesda Software and then sold the Fallout IP to Bethesda Softworks in 2007.[14][15]

In September 2008, several games from Interplay's catalog were re-released on the digital distribution service GOG.com after being unavailable in retail distribution for years.[16]

In August 2013, Interplay acquired the remaining rights to the FreeSpace franchise for $7,500 after THQ went to bankruptcy court.[17]

Lawsuits

In 2003 and 2004 Snowblind Studios and Interplay Entertainment were engaged in a dispute regarding the Dark Alliance Engine for Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, and the GameCube version of the original Dark Alliance. The dispute was resolved and Interplay would be allowed to work with materials already using the Dark Alliance Engine.[citation needed]

Bethesda Softworks sued Interplay in 2009, regarding the Fallout Online license and selling of Fallout Trilogy and sought an injunction to stop development of Fallout Online and sales of Fallout Trilogy. After several trials spanning almost three years, and in exchange for 2 million dollars, Interplay gave to Bethesda full rights for Fallout Online. Interplay's rights to sell and merchandise Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel expired on December 31, 2013.[18]

In 2010, Topware Interactive revealed that they were developing Battle vs. Chess to be published by SouthPeak Games. Interplay sued them and won an injunction to stop sales in the United States. In 2012, Interplay won the case via default and a settlement for $200,000 plus interest was agreed upon on November 15, 2012 but according to PACER,[19]

Kickstarters

Following the victory over Topware, Interplay began working on releasing a new version of Battle Chess for the PC. Battle Chess: Game of Kings, initially developed by Subdued Software, marked Interplay's first Kickstarter with a goal of $100,000. Ultimately, Interplay failed to reach the goal and the project was placed on hiatus following the closure of Subdued Software. Eventually, after handing the project off to a different studio, Olde Skuul, the project was finished and released on Steam.[20] Interplay, while also releasing the Descent series to Steam,[21][22][23][24][25] then began to develop FreeSpace Tactics, based on Descent: FreeSpace. Eventually creating another Kickstarter to fund the project, Interplay once again failed and canceled the crowdfunding operation.[26]

Interplay's interest in the Descent series eventually resulted in them licensing the name out to Descendent Studios. In March 2015 Descendent Studios launched a Kickstarter campaign to make a Descent prequel titled Descent: Underground. On April 10, 2015, Descent: Underground's campaign finished successfully, raising $601,773 on a goal of $600,000; this marked the first successful Kickstarter for an Interplay-owned property.[27]

Recent events

On September 7, 2016, a press release was published on Nasdaq Newswire reporting that Interplay will be selling their library of intellectual properties, including video game assets. The sale included 70 titles and "dozens of characters." Investment firm Wedbush Securities is orchestrating the sale.[28]

Games

Studios

  • Interplay Discovery; a subdivision founded in 2010 aimed at publishing games made by indie developers.

Defunct studios