Once upon a time, there was an entire genre of space combat titles. Origin took an early lead with 1990's Wing Commander, but Lucas Arts followed a few years later with the hugely popular X-Wing and Tie Fighter series. In 1998, Volition gave us Descent: Freespace, followed by Freespace 2 in 1999. Both games sold reasonably well, but development on a hypothetical Freespace 3 was nixed when Volition was picked up by THQ.
The problem, as often happens, was one of rights. Interplay still owned the rights to the Descent and Freespace franchises, but Volition and THQ had rights to other IP (the game's source code was published in 2002, but for non-commercial use only). That's recently changed -- Interplay picked up the rights to Freespace's IP for $7500 after THQ collapsed earlier this year.
The Freespace 2 engine has continued to evolve over the years since it was open-sourced; the creators of the Wing Commander Saga
mod used it to power their excellent homage to the original Wing Commander universe. While it's now more than ten years old, there's clearly a die-hard community for space combat games still interested in playing them, despite the fact that there's been precious few new titles in the genre for over a decade.
What will Interplay do with the IP? That's hard to say. Some of you will be surprised to hear that Interplay still exists at all, and the company's recent activities have all been well below the radar. It relaunched Black Island Studios last year, to some acclaim, but has yet to unveil any details on upcoming projects beyond a vague announcement of a new "V13" project. Nothing on the launch site appears to have changed in the past six months. Interplay has previously stated that its business model revolves around licensing IP to other companies to make games, which implies that it may be shopping the Freespace name and data to other interested studios rather than planning its own title.
This, admittedly, would be ok with us. Freespace
had a great storyline that stood on its own two feet against the high-budget Wing Commander and X-Wing titles of the day, and the entire second game ended on a cliffhanger that was never resolved. Hopefully someone will pick up the pieces of the game universe and create a decent product.