Gearbox Sues 3D Realms Over Duke Nukem Contract Breach

Gearbox Sues 3D Realms Over Duke Nukem Contract Breach

The Duke Nukem franchise has had trouble staying out of hot water. Ownership battles between original Duke Nukem Forever developer 3D Realms and new IP owners Gearbox Software have led to an array of legal battles between the two companies. Now, Gearbox is suing 3D Realms once again over an alleged breach of the game’s acquisitions contract.

In 2013, developer 3D Realms (otherwise known as Apogee Software) sued Gearbox Software over a breach of contract. They alleged Gearbox owed significant money in unpaid royalties and failed to comply with contract terms. This suit was eventually dropped with no outcome and 3D Realms announced they had no further complaints against Gearbox.

Then in 2014, Gearbox Software initiated a lawsuit against 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment over the creation of Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction, a rumoured ARPG game that never saw the light of day. In the lawsuit, Gearbox asserted their rights as the true owners of the Duke Nukem franchise, having acquired the license in 2010. This case was later settled and it was determined Gearbox was the full owner of the Duke Nukem franchise.

Further lawsuits were filed against Gearbox in 2019, with composer Bobby Prince alleging the unauthorised use of his music within the Gearbox-published Duke Nukem 3D re-release. This lawsuit has now led to Gearbox adding 3D Realms (under the Apogee name) as a third party to the existing complaint.

Gearbox alleges 3D Realms violated their 2010 acquisition contract that handed the Duke Nukem rights over to Gearbox. This contract made clear there were no copyright infringement issues during the handover — a proclamation that extended to existing music rights. Gearbox states in the new lawsuit it made 3D Realms aware of the 2019 Prince-led lawsuit and demanded compensation to resolve it. According to Gearbox, this was never received.

“The use of Prince’s music in earlier Duke Nukem video games published by 3D Realms was subject to a license agreement between Prince and 3D Realms,” the suit states.

Duke Nukem‘s fall from grace has been long and disappointing. Its ongoing legal battles have only diminished what little faith was left in the embattled franchise.

According to Digital Trends, even Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford knows the franchise’s poor worth. “Nothing about Duke Nukem is about profit at this point. It’s about goodwill,” Pitchford stated in the lawsuit.

With troubles continuing to plague the franchise, that goodwill is quickly running out.


  • It’s a shame we will never get another Duke Nukem game, he just doesn’t fit within current #metoo culture, that sounds a lot worse than its meant to but he is just a product of its time, coming off the hyper-masculine 80’s brainless action hero.

    With some proper re-tooling he could work but i think the name “Duke Nukem” is too far tainted now for anyone to take that risk.

    • No reason a character in that style cant exist today, its more the taint that holds Duke back.

      Serious Sam has a new game coming out in a couple of months, and there isnt a huge gap in the premise of either character. Ditto for the Doom protagonist, who would have his basic premise behind him as well. He’s been built around a not dis-similar character style. Wolfenstein hasnt suffered from BJ Blazkowicz’s attitude either.

      The style of character isnt the problem, its all the bullshit thats happened around Duke thats really dragged the franchise down. And all it would take would be a cracking good game in the style of the more recent Doom games, and all would be forgiven.

      You just need to see the sales numbers of Duke Nukem Forever, even with it being such a terrible game, to see that gamers WANT Duke to succeed. 1 million sales might not be what they wanted, but at the time it was (eventually) released that was a respectable enough number.

      • It’s a FPS with a bad arse alien fighter dropping one liners.

        Just remove the sexist cringe from the one liners. Heck I was of the opinion that most of Duke’s lines where variant’s of Ash’s lines in Evil Dead, and that got a modern TV series.

        • “Sexist cringe”
          The only thing I can think off that comes close to that is “shake it, baby” aimed at a stripper.
          The most DN3D came to being sexist was “objectifying” women. Air quotes on that, since I’d argue the way it does it still isn’t that heinous. That DN3D is some sort of horrible woman hating alt-right recruitment game is a twitter meme.

          I will make a concession for the awful Nuclear Winter expansion, where the enemies were the Feminist Elf Militia (pretty cringe), and everything related to the Holsom Twins in DNF.

          • The only thing I can think off that comes close to that is “shake it, baby” aimed at a stripper.

            i wouldnt even say that comes close. theyre strippers, thats their job. no different than telling a maccas employee to make you a burger.

          • You’re not really familiar with the character if you think that’s the only sexist thing you can think of.

            Duke is a full-on neckbeard.

    • I feel like if the writing was reasonably smart, they might be able to pull off a sort of Austin Powers typed deal. Acknowledge that Duke is a bit of a knuckle dragger and let him come to terms with that in a way that’s still fun.

      I don’t know that I’d have all that much hope of Gearbox pulling that off with the finesse it’d need to work, but, you know, it’s probably doable.

      • They could always revisit the old sidescrollers and see what a new DN2 or Manhattan Project could look like (rebuild it from its roots a bit where Duke was a more self-aware celebrity butt-kicker, but drop the part where you collect damsels in distress as map challenges) – put in a better level editor and a Switch port and you’d have a neat platformer on the go which PC modders could have fun extending.

        Or they could lean into the cheese like the Doom and Shadow Warrior reboots, maybe with a few more sassy female characters who won’t take any crap from him and force him to grow as a person.

        Or they could go latter-day Lethal Weapon/Expendables where he’s old and gruff and sick of all this alien invasion rubbish (or play it up like some of the Soldier 76 dad memes).

        There’s so much you could do with the character, but unfortunately the way Gearbox has been going these days I would expect them to attempt it in the worst way possible.

        • Impossible now, but seeing him paired with Ion Storm (nee Maiden)’s Shelly would have been a treat.

    • Yeah,

      If there was a new game in development you can guarantee there would be articles upon articles from Kotaku writers and doxxing of the devs by resetera members.

    • We will never get another Duke Nukem game because Gearbox is incompetent. If they did finally release a game, it would have Borderlands tier writing, perish the thought.

      Based on Doom’s reinvention, I’d say id could have a good shot at rejuvenating the series. Shame that’ll never happen.

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