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.