While it’s undeniable that Gearbox Software and 3D Realms have always cultivated something of a love/hate relationship in the past, they recently appear to have returned to a cycle of exchanging lawsuits.
This time, Gearbox Software alleges that 3D Realms has worked with several other developers to illegally create a game based on the ‘Duke Nukem’ franchise.
The basic issue
The primary point of contention appears to center on the way Gearbox Software and 3D Realms distributed the rights to the ‘Duke Nukem’ franchise. Specifically, Gearbox Software holds the rights to any new games that are developed with the ‘Duke Nukem’ name, while 3D Realms retains the rights to any older titles.
This rights problem is compounded by the fact that 3D Realms has allegedly attempted to persuade other software developers that the sale of new rights to ‘Duke Nukem’ games never actually occurred. In other words, 3D Realms was allegedly able to convince software developers Interceptor Entertainment and Apogee Software that they were free to make a new game using the ‘Duke Nukem’ name and history.
It gets stranger
Perhaps one of the strangest things about the current dispute is that 3D Realms’ studio heads, Scott Miller and George Broussard, signed a legal document which stated that they did in fact infringe on Gearbox Software’s rights. This is an unfortunate turn of events, since the studio heads at Gearbox Software and 3D Realms were once close friends.
That once-cozy relationship was the basis for their partnership over the past several years. Now it would appear the struggles of the ‘Duke Nukem’ franchise to find and maintain an audience is beginning to take a toll on both companies.
Where can they go from here
That’s not to say that the ‘Duke Nukem’ franchise is utterly dead in the water at this point. If anything, Gearbox Software could conceivably be enticed to come to an agreement at this point after seeing the fan response that an isometric ‘Duke Nukem’ role-playing game has gotten.
Unfortunately, 3D Realms has yet to issue a statement in response to the allegations, which leaves the next stage of the lawsuit, as well as the ‘Duke Nukem’ game, unclear. What is known, however, is that Gearbox Software is actively seeking reparations in court for statutory damages it asserts resulted from the project, as well as any potential losses that may have occurred due to the infringement.
At least on some level, the current spat is a response to the suit that was fought between 3D Realms and Gearbox Software last year. In that dispute, Gearbox Software claimed it received the poorer end of the bargain, because it was entrusted with paying off a large loan that 3D Realms had taken out.
While the company did in fact pay off the loan, disappointing sales figures from the sale of ‘Duke Nukem Forever’ left the firm bitter about the deal. ‘Duke Nukem Forever’ ended up being profitable in the end, but it’s hard to say whether the numerous lawsuits ultimately made that project worth the effort.