3D Realms & Gearbox End Duke Nukem Legal Battle

A lot has changed in video games across my six years as a professional words person, but Duke Nukem has always been a shambles. In uncertain times, I knew I could always glance his way and groan “Oh no what’s happened now?” I feel a little lost now the legal troubles between old owner 3D Realms and the new Dukelords at Gearbox Software have wrapped up.

Gearbox, 3D Realms, and 3DR owner Interceptor Entertainment have issued a joint statement declaring they’ve voluntarily ended all the litigation, and that Gearbox are “the full and rightful owner[s] of the Duke Nukem franchise.”

Folks snooped court documents to this effect a while back, but it wasn’t clear if that’d be the end of it. It is, so I hope this is the last time I ever have to recap this. Right!

So! 3D Realms all but shut down in 2009 while making Duke Nukem Forever. Borderlands folks Gearbox bought the Duke Nukem franchise off them and finished DNF (it was rubbish). Things went quiet until 2014, when 3D Realms teamed up with Rise of the Triad rebooters to make top-down shooty RPG Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction. Gearbox hastily responded with a lawsuit saying “Er, mate, we own Duke Nukem.” A few weeks later, 3D Realms was sold sold to Interceptor and claimed they did have a license for one last Duke game, Duke Nukem Survivor – supposedly the working title for an old game that became Mass Destruction. Gearbox disagreed, and on the rumble rumbled.

3D Realms CEO Mike Nielsen said in yesterday’s joint statement:

“When Interceptor acquired a license to develop ‘Duke Nukem Mass Destruction’ (‘Duke Nukem Survivor’) from 3D Realms, we did so in good faith and were not aware of any conflict. We never intended to cause any harm to Gearbox or Duke, which is why we immediately ceased development after Gearbox reached out. To secure the future of Duke, 3D Realms has agreed with Gearbox that a single home serves the IP best. And as big Duke fans, we’re excited to see what Gearbox has in store for the ‘King.’ As for our own games, we’re eager to complete development of the ‘Bombshell’ game and get it in the hands of our fans.”

Bombshell appears to be a game Interceptor hastily salvaged from Duke Nukem Mass Destruction, swapping in a new female lead. It looks a bit dull.

Interceptor CEO Frederik Schreiber also took this opportunity to make clear a little history. Before Rise of the Triad, the studio had been working on a fan remake of Duke Nukem 3D, named Duke Nukem Reloaded. Gearbox gave them the legal all-clear, but Interceptor placed it on hold and wandered away. Schreiber yesterday said:

“I want to make it clear now, once and for all – It was my own decision to pull the plug on Duke Nukem Reloaded, even though we were fully allowed to continue development. I respect Gearbox for supporting a young developer, and I’m glad we can now put this behind us.”

I hope this will be the last Duke Nukem history lesson I ever give.

As for the future – ye gods! – Gearbox head honch Randy Pitchford has been sighted honking about the possibility of a new Duke Nukem game.


  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    It belongs in a museum!

  2. Eightball says:

    Hail to the once and future king rights holder, baby!

  3. satan says:

    I’ll take a new/remade Death Rally starring Duke, please.

    • satan says:

      …I just remembered they did a remake a few years ago and I hated it, man why do I even post.

  4. trn says:

    Do we really want Gearbox to be involved with another Duke Nukem game?

    • Distec says:

      I’m not really sure about Gearbox on the whole, but solely as developers they don’t seem too bad? DNF was probably unsalvageable regardless of who took over, and A:CM was largely passed off to another studio.

      Now the latter doesn’t really excuse their involvement with that fiasco. It’s just that it seemed more an issue with their corporate antics rather than Gearbox’s ability to make good games. I think Borderlands show they’re capable of doing a Nukem game proper since that’s in their general wheelhouse. I also can’t think of any other suitable studios, although that’s not to say they don’t exist.

      Now, some would argue that Duke is a dinosaur who should be relegated to the bin of history. They are wrong!

      • Detocroix says:

        Yup, both the Duke Nukem and Aliens: Colonial Marines were there just to prove they can finish a game (and get some IP rights out of it). Next they can make a good game based on the IP(s, not sure about the Aliens license itself though). Staking a claim.

    • Jalan says:

      I think we may be overestimating that Gearbox will ever actually release another Duke Nukem game.

      I’m all for being proven wrong though.

  5. Cvnk says:

    All this fuss over a franchise no one cares about anymore. Even those of us old enough to be nostalgic about DN3D. Is there really any value to using this name/character vs inventing something new? Barely.

    • BlazeL says:

      Oh yes, I would love to play a Duke game where he starts out old, broken and forgotten, he only wants to be left alone, but is unwittingly pulled into the saving the world business again. And at the end he could finally retire in glory.

  6. pepperfez says:

    3D Realms & Gearbox End Duke Nukem

    The headline we’re all waiting for.

  7. trashmyego says:

    Just let it die. There’s nothing worthwhile or relevant to resurrect here. Just something that should be noted as one of the biggest creative embarrassments of gaming history. In this case, let your childhoods go people. You’ve been clinging onto them for far too long.

    • Distec says:

      I dunno, man. Somebody can do with Duke Nukem what Machine Games did for Wolfenstein. But more time and some crappy sequels might be required might need to happen in the interim before the universe allows it.

  8. Jediben says:

    Goddamn millenials. Duke Nukem may be a sexual tyrannosaur, gleefully castigating alien pigs cops for consuming faeces and expiring, objectifying poorly drawn nymphettes and doing a passable homage to the late, great Toddy Piper, but by god he did it for ME and the generation like me, who had to put up with changes which you trans-everything, limp wristed, skinny jeans wearing, Nick Grimshaw idolising, Green party suffragettes now take for granted and try to exploit with objections such as “Oh why shouldn’t a charity run by a suspiciously overweight lady who pretends to be Batman be bailed out with Government funds”. USA! USA! USA!

  9. Cozzzy says:

    “No YOU can have it!”

  10. tonicer says:

    What? Duke Nukem Forever was actually released? Oh wait it’s a pile a garbage. Oh man, poor Duke. The once mighty hero is just a dumbed down console game hero.

    Once again consoles ruined a whole franchise.

    *goes playing his pimped out DN3D with a plethora of mods/maps*

    • dethtoll says:

      Whining about consoles is about as dated as DNF’s humor.

  11. dethtoll says:

    I really don’t understand the DNF hate. Well, okay, yes, I do, I just haven’t scooped my enjoyment gland out with a rusty spoon like some people.

    Does it live up to the hype? No. Is it a bad game? No. Is it like a weird stratum of FPS games from 1996 through 2006? Hell yes.

    I mean, as a game itself it’s competent, playable, and fun, if a bit bog-standard post-Half-Life and Halo/pre-CoD4. It’s got good chunks of very Duke humor, sometimes it’s a little dated, sometimes it’s executed very poorly.

    There was no way it could ever have lived up to its hype, though. Why is anyone even surprised here? Let’s be honest — Duke 3D occupies a very weird place in gaming history. When it came out, it took the world by storm, simply because it managed to breathe new life into a stagnating FPS arena that was mostly Doom clones for the past two years. It was edgy, it was funny, it had “real-world” environments, it ran on more computers than Quake at the time, it was controversial, the hero was an established popular character from Apogee’s platformers and he actually talked. More to the point, it provided something different from Quake, which while technologically superior was thematically not that different from Doom. But now we look at it and we see a game that has all the flaws of the 90s. Those real-world environments can be a little abstract and nonsensical. Some of the “edgy” humor comes off as a little misogynist or otherwise not really fitting 2015 sensibilities. Most of us are quite tired of Duke cracking wise. The game has a few balance issues. Duke Land fucking sucks. The list goes on. But in 1996 who cared? 3D Realms had something good going, and they milked it for all it was worth. Does anyone remember the zillion console ports? I had Duke Nukem 64 for a good long while. Think I still do. And don’t forget the other games, too, like Time To Kill and Zero Hour, or the one everyone knows: Manhattan Project.

    The problem is that those side games stopped being made and yet DNF wasn’t out yet. So for 15 years we got ourselves hyped up over a sequel to a game that, ultimately, hasn’t aged as well as some of its contemporaries. And you expected… what? For the game to blow you and offer you supreme pizza? No game that takes 15 years to be made (and indeed came out 5 years after primary development and feature implementation had stopped) is ever going to live up to the hype — especially at a studio that was as troubled as 3D Realms. They kept trying to meet the zeitgeist of whatever was hot and new at the time — first Duke 3D (of course,) then Half-Life, then Halo. (You can tell development stopped before George Broussard had a chance to play Call of Duty 4, otherwise the game would have included iron-sights and more hectic combat.) So development kept getting delayed over and over to add more features. And yet the lack of release had become a more effective hype machine than the actual “it’s done, we’re releasing it soon” advertising campaign. Everyone was so convinced the game would never come out that when there was actually an announcement people lost their freaking minds.

    And what did we get for all that excitement? A middling Half-Life clone with Halo’s regenerating shields and some dated humor. So yeah, I get the DNF hate. I just think it’s stupid, because if you’re going to criticize it, at least criticize it for things that are actually true, like the fact that it’s a middling Half-Life clone with Halo’s regenerating shields and some dated humor. It’s not a BAD game, it’s not incompetently made, it’s pretty polished and perfectly playable, and it certainly isn’t “dumbed down for console tards.”

    The DLC’s better anyway.