The history of the Duke Nukem video game franchise is long and filled with a lot of low points, both in terms of game development and in terms of legal matters. The most recent chapter in the gaming icon's saga had two companies with local ties -- and a previously friendly relationship -- at each other's throats. But now, according to a joint statement by both companies, things are looking up.
Gearbox Software, based in Plano, and 3D Realms, previously based in Garland before being acquired by Interceptor Entertainment and moved to Denmark, say they've settled their dispute over who has the rights to develop future Duke Nukem games. If this were a divorce case (and at times it felt like it), then it sounds like Gearbox won custody of the child.
The statement from Gearbox Software's side of things says that the developer "has voluntarily ended its litigation against Interceptor Entertainment and 3D Realms, and wishes to keep the terms of its settlement confidential except to confirm that Gearbox Software is the full and rightful owner of the Duke Nukem franchise."
So in other words it sounds like they got what they wanted but aren't talking specifics.
"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," said MIke Nielsen, CEO of 3D Realms. "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 is the next game from 3D Realms and Interceptor, after their Rise of the Triad remake that debuted in 2013. It was playable at QuakeCon here in Dallas last month and is scheduled to be released later this year.
3D Realm's Frederik Schreiber echoed the sentiment, but also expressed affection for Gearbox as a developer. Perhaps more importantly, he refers to an old project of his from 2011, Duke Nukem Reloaded. The game was planned to be a free fan-made remake of Duke Nukem 3D before it was canceled without much clarification as to why. The prevailing narrative since then has been that Gearbox ordered the project to be halted, despite having previously given it their blessing. Schreiber now says that wasn't the case.
His statement says:
"I'm really happy that the lawsuit between Gearbox, 3DR, and Interceptor has come to an end. Right now, I, along with my Interceptor colleagues, are busy making the finishing touches on Bombshell. We can't wait until you guys can play it!
Now that the lawsuit is over, I'd like to say a few things about my history with Gearbox, and hopefully clear some things up. I've been a huge Duke fan for many years, and the original Duke Nukem 3D was a big influence on me and my career in this industry that I love.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to Gearbox for allowing me to work on Duke Nukem Reloaded. I decided to cease production of Reloaded in 2011 to establish Interceptor and work on Rise of the Triad.
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 look forward to completing development on Bombshell and-as a long-time fan of Duke-I'm excited to see what Gearbox has in store for the 'King'!"
Interestingly, both of those statements heavily imply that Gearbox does, in fact, have plans for the future of Duke Nukem. At this time they have not announced that any Duke project is in development, making their sole contribution to the franchise the release of Duke Nukem Forever -- a game with a long, complicated history that Gearbox was mostly not involved in.
Gearbox president Randy Pitchford had far fewer words about the settlement than Schreiber, saying, "I genuinely appreciate Mr. Nielsen's and Mr. Schreiber's statement and sincerely offer my best wishes to Interceptor Entertainment and 3D Realms towards their future success and, as someone who was part of the 3D Realms team when Bombshell was first imagined, I am excited to see what they have in store for us with their game."