Duke Nukem Forever was released almost two years ago, but it seems like the trouble surrounding the game’s fifteen year long development cycle hasn’t ended yet. Today, 3D Realms, the company who created Duke Nukem, announced that they were suing Gearbox for unpaid royalties.
3D Realms claims that when they handed development of Duke Nukem Forever over to Gearbox in 2009, Gearbox agreed to pay off some of 3D Realms’ debts, which amounted to about 2.9 million dollars. 3D Realms says that Gearbox is now refusing to pay them any royalties generated from Duke Nukem Forever’s sales until they repay the $2.9 million they were originally given, which 3D Realms says is a condition that was never part of their original agreement. 3D Realms also claims that Gearbox has blocked an independent audit that was supposed to determine how much profit they made off of Duke Nukem Forever.
Gearbox VP of Marketing Steve Gibson dismissed 3D Realms’ allegations by telling Joystiq that “The reality is that Apogee / 3D Realms (3DR) received the full benefit of its bargain. Gearbox, in its fulfillment of its commitments, enriched 3DR, saved 3DR from its debts and rescued 3DR from its litigation surrounding its failed dozen-plus year attempt to ship Duke Nukem Forever.”
Gibson implied that their deal to release Duke Nukem Forever caused Gearbox more trouble than it was worth, saying “Everyone wished that 3DR’s game was better received by the market for the benefit of gamers and profit to its creators… While 3DR might not wish the reality that the results make clear, 3DR turned out to be the only beneficiary of the deal. Gearbox Software, meanwhile, experienced damage to its credibility and loss of its money.”
Duke Nukem Forever was released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC in 2011. The game was originally announced by 3D Realms way back in 1997, but suffered numerous delays in the thirteen years that followed. 3D Realms sold the rights to the game to Gearbox in 2009, who finished the game. The game was released to an overwhelmingly negative critical reception, and while Gibson’s statements today imply that Gearbox didn’t make any money off of the project, the game’s publisher, 2K Games, have stated that they did turn on a profit on the title.
This tiff with 3D Realms isn’t the only lawsuit that Gearbox is facing right now: the company is currently fighting off allegations of false advertising in regards to their latest game, Aliens Colonial Marines, which was published by Sega last Winter. According to that lawsuit, Gearbox purposefully demoed footage of the game that wasn’t representative of the final product in order to bait-and-switch customers into buying a sub-par game.
I think the take away from this whole situation is this: if a game is delayed for fifteen years, there’s probably a reason for it, and maybe it would’ve been better if it never came out at all. Also: you should probably avoid Gearbox games that don’t have the word “Borderlands” in the title.