It seems that Duke Nukem’s legacy is destined to be mired in controversy rather than gaming glory, with Gearbox and 3D Realms heading for a legal battle over the rights to the Duke Nukem IP.
Back in February 2014, news of a new Duke Nukem game crept onto the web via teaser site alloutofgum.com. Duke Nukem Mass Destruction was billed as an “isometric action role-playing game for PC and PlayStation 4″.
The game was in development at Interceptor Games (Rise of the Triad 2013) who were apparently licensed the rights to the IP from Duke Nukem progenitor 3D Realms.
In a further twist, soon after this Interceptor announced they had acquired 3D Realms (otherwise known as Apogee Software, Ltd. – and not to be confused with Apogee Software, LCC who owns rights to IP such as a Rise of the Triad).
It didn’t take long for Gearbox to issue a legal challenge on the development of Duke Nukem Mass Destruction, as they claim the rights to the Duke Nukem IP having rescued 3D Realms and Duke Nukem Forever from development hell back in 2010.
A highlight from Gearbox’s February 2014 legal complaint filing:
By attempting to license the unlicensable, assign the unassignable, and effectively re-sell the exclusive rights that Gearbox already purchased in 2010, 3DR breached the terms of its APA with Gearbox, as well as Gearbox’s exclusive, federally-protected intellectual property rights.
The plot thickens once again, as 3D Realms has hit back at Gearbox, claiming they still own the “Duke Nukem” trademark and can do with it as they please.
Their full statement was provided to Polygon:
“On March 17, 2014, 3D Realms filed its answer to the complaint by Gearbox Software in Dallas, Texas. 3DR denies all allegations set forth in the complaint. In its answer, 3DR has submitted evidence showing that Gearbox at no point intended to enter into good faith negotiations but instead sought to force former owners, Scott Miller and George Broussard, to improperly surrender what rightfully belonged to 3DR.
“It is our position that 3DR retains the right to develop the tentatively titled “Duke Nukem Survivor” game for specific platforms. This game was previously licensed for development to Interceptor Entertainment. Furthermore, it is our position that the Trademark for “Duke Nukem” was never assigned to Gearbox, but remains the sole property of 3DR.”
Interceptor Entertainment also chimed in:
“As an independent and young studio, we have been very fortunate to work with companies such as Apogee and 3D Realms on amazing IP’s such as Duke Nukem and Rise of the Triad. As true fans of these companies, their games and the amazing minds behind them, we have nothing but respect for the intellectual properties they have created as well as their rightful owners.
“We were extremely excited for our next reveal, but unfortunately due to the actions of Gearbox Software, Interceptor Entertainment decided to put this reveal on hold in respect of their lawsuit. However, 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment were rightfully developing our game and as you can imagine we were quite shocked when the accusations by Gearbox arose, as we have always acted within our legal rights. It’s unfortunate that Gearbox has shown no intention of finding a peaceful solution with us. We will however continue to work towards a solution.”
This isn’t the first time 3D Realms and Gearbox have butted heads in a legal dispute. In September 2013, 3D Realms dropped a legal claim against Gearbox for over $2 million in unpaid royalties from Duke Nukem: Forever.
3D Realms dropped the lawsuit without money changing hands, and 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller apologised to Gearbox, ostensibly admitting to not fully understanding their business affairs which led to the unfounded lawsuit.
3D Realms was originally developing Duke Nukem Forever, first announced in 1997. Fast forward to 2009, and publisher Take-Two filed a lawsuit against 3D Realms after the developer failed to deliver the product.
Gearbox was then handed the reins to finish up the game and get it published, which it did in 2011 to a barrage of negative criticism (I had my own strong opinion on the game) despite making bucket loads of money.