The company was founded as Interplay Productions in Southern California in 1983 by former employees of a small video game company called Boone Corporation. Interplay made a name for itself as a quality computer game developer with the role-playing games The Bard's Tale and Wasteland, which were published by Electronic Arts.
The company 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 1993, Interplay made a big hit and produced a great deal of revenue with Descent which they acquired in a publishing deal from Parallax Software. Descent was supposed to be published by Apogee Software but due to some issues, Interplay published Descent. Again in 1996 with Descent 2, also developed by Parallax, Interplay saw Descent grow as a franchise. Descent 2 sold millions of copies. In 1999, Outrage Entertainment, a division of Parallax Software after it split into two divisions, released Descent 3 through Interplay. This Descent title had mediocre sales. Descent 3 was expected to do well, but was a disappoinment in the marketplace. Descent 3 didn't meet Interplay's expected sales projections within its first year. In 2000, Outrage Entertainment released an expansion pack to Descent 3, known as Descent 3: Mercenary.
Interplay went public, with shares sold on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange, in 1998, and then reported several years of losses.
In 1999, Interplay dabbled in live action movie adaptations when they started a division known as Interplay Movies. The division was to try to get popular Interplay franchises at that time to be adapted into movies. Interplay Movies first attempted to get Descent made into a movie. A script was commissioned for an NBC TV movie, but it was decided that it would be more suitable for a movie theater, however the movie is now considered dead. It was reported that Interplay Movies acquired Redneck Rampage\ movie rights which were optioned to Columbia Tristar in 1999. In 2000 entertainment magazine Variety reported that Interplay Movies was attempting to get Fallout made into a movie. Interplay Movies was reported to have been parterning with Dark Horse Entertainment and that a script for the movie was written by Brent Freeman (of Dark Skies and Mortal Kombat II movie fame).
In 2002, Interplay shed most of its publisher functions and signed a long-term agreement by which Vivendi Universal would publish Interplay's games. Also in 2002, Interplay's shares were delisted from the NASDAQ due to the company's low share price. French publisher Titus Interactive acquired majority control of the company and founder Brian Fargo departed. The company announced it would henceforth focus on game development rather than publishing.