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Duke Nukem deal goes sour, as 3D Realms sues Gearbox
 Duke Nukem  deal goes sour, as 3D Realms sues Gearbox
June 13, 2013 | By Kris Graft

A friendly transaction between two independent video game studios has gone sour, and it’s all Duke Nukem’s fault.

Duke Nukem developer 3D Realms filed suit today against Borderlands house Gearbox Software, demanding over $2 million in royalties related to sales of the Duke Nukem franchise.

The complaint claims that Gearbox failed to pay 3D Realms royalties stemming from a February 2010 agreement that granted Gearbox certain rights to develop future Duke Nukem games Duke Nukem Forever (released in 2011) and an unreleased title, Duke Begins. Duke Nukem Forever was famously in development for over 12 years before Gearbox stepped in to take over development.

The knife-twist is the fact that the parties who inked the deal, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford and 3D Realms founders Scott Miller and George Broussard, had been friends for years. Pitchford had even worked on the original Duke Nukem before founding Gearbox.

But 3D Realms’ complaint alleges that after the deal closed, Gearbox “refused and failed to make substantial royalty payments” that were due as part of the Duke Nukem purchase agreement. 3D Realms also claims that Gearbox is blocking an independent auditor from verifying royalty amounts.

On top of royalties, 3D Realms claims that as part of the 2010 deal, Gearbox assumed “certain liabilities,” including the repayment of a $2.9 million loan that 3D Realms owed to another software developer.

The details surrounding that large loan are a point of contention -- 3D Realms claims Pitchford agreed that Gearbox would start paying royalties to 3D Realms as soon as Gearbox received its royalties from Duke Nukem sales, and those royalty rates would be paid before Gearbox could start recouping on the $2.9 million loan.

The complaint alleges: “Despite the assurance it provided 3D Realms, Gearbox now claims that it is entitled first to deduct the full amount of the debt it assumed (i.e. the entire $2.9M Duke Loan) before any royalty payments become due to 3D Realms. Thus, Gearbox is turning the tables and taking a position directly opposite to [a previous email from Pitchford to Miller].” [Emphases in original.]

In a statement to Law360, Gearbox said it got the short end of the bargain, losing money and credibility, while 3D Realms got all of the benefit.

"Gearbox, in fulfillment of its commitments, enriched 3D Realms, saved 3DR from its debts and rescued 3DR from its failed dozen-plus year attempt to ship Duke Nukem Forever," the statement read. "...3DR turned out to be the only beneficiary of the deal."

The full filing is below.

Duke Nukem by Kris Graft

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Josh Griffiths
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This is karma for Colonial Marines.

Glenn Sturgeon
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DNF did sell millions of copies and GB could have actualy finished the game in order to promote better sales and ratings. Gearbox can seem to get nothing right beyond borderlands.
I just found out today the UE3 remake of DN 3D (duke nukem next gen) was cancelled due to gearbox. Oh well, i did pick up DN megaton edtion on steam and its fantastic.

Dane MacMahon
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Nothing kills friendships, families and romantic relationships like money. Go capitalism!

Bart Stewart
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The socioeconomic theories of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot would seem to have been a bit more disruptive to human happiness than capitalism, but yes, money certainly can do weird things to people, no question.

Dane MacMahon
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I'm not a Marxist by any means, however the way money dominates American society is pretty extreme as well. There's a happy medium there that a lot of other countries have discovered in my opinion, to varying degrees of success.

"Worst method, except for all the others..." and all that.

Paul Tozour
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> "Gearbox, in fulfillment of its commitments, enriched 3D Realms, saved 3DR from
> its debts and rescued 3DR from its failed dozen-plus year attempt to ship Duke
> Nukem Forever," the statement read. "...3DR turned out to be the only beneficiary
> of the deal."

I'm not sure I understand this response from Gearbox. It seems to be simply complaining that the deal didn't benefit it them as much as they would have liked. If I'm reading it correctly, it seems to boil down to "we don't like how this deal turned out," and if that's the case, they shouldn't have signed the deal in the first place, and I don't see how anyone could take a comment like this seriously as a part of legal proceedings.

A deal is a deal; you can't try to defend yourself in court later by saying the deal was unfair. It's your own job to make sure the contracts you sign will work out for you if executed as written.

Dane MacMahon
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It was a very candid and unprofessional statement. I am guessing the bad blood here is strong.

Paul Shirley
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I think its more a case of Gearbox gambling the spin-off and sequel rights would be valuable. Which they would have been had DNF been any good.

But it wasn't, the rights are worthless and they see no upside to playing nice with 3DR if they can grab the cash. Proving there's no clusterfuck that can't get worse.

Dane MacMahon
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If that's their outlook I think they are being shortsighted. The failure of DNF might mean a 2014 Duke game that sells 5 million copies is out of the question, but a reboot down the line with the right marketing could be very profitable.

Michael Joseph
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Duke was Duke because he was a rebel and broke the rules as a character and as a game. In a genre dominated by seriousness, dark dungeons, demons and traditional weapons, Duke the game gave us real world scenes, alien pig cops, and a wise cracking protagonist. It became a vehicle for making a game that rebelled against the status quo of the genre.

And Duke the dynamic, anti-hero character was unpredictable and should never be what users thought he was in the previous title. He dared you to follow him into unfamiliar territory.

But rather than use this core philosophy, they simply adapted the static caricature of Duke and wound up creating a game that felt dated, dumbed down (which is going in the direction of the genre instead of against it), clichéd, and cheap.

I don't think they really understood what they had with Duke.

The Le
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I'm not seeing the words 'Breach of Contract' anywhere in there. I would think that the contract is air-tight, and that should give one side (or the other) a clear victory in this matter.

Jorge Ramos
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I really hope someone can take the reins and make a PROPER Duke Nukem game again.

Ron Dippold
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Honestly, is there anything in DNF's 15 years of existence that hasn't been sour? It's been a complete catastrophe and sucking disappointment from start to finish.

Jorge Ramos
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While my only real experiences with duke have been with Duke3D and DNF, Duke Nukem is indeed a beloved character for me. Duke is the entire reason I got into first person shooters in the first place. In fact, in my high school the students and teachers had a fair agreement with the computers available in the classroom; we were allowed to install the shareware version and run it on the systems, if AND ONLY IF we finished our assignments and homework in time to do so. Needless to say, that was a strong motivator, and got me bit by the PC gaming bug.

Even among those that have played since the original side scrolling days (and one person I know who still has the floppy's for installing "Duke Nukum" when Apogee didn't even think it could license that name), Duke3D was basically the magnum opus, for many good reasons. It was a very technically advanced engine, and scaled very well for its time. You could look up and down. you could move and aim with the mouse. you could JUMP, which is more than could be said for ANY id game at the time.

I too was among those that just wanted to see Duke forever come out... but I also had the mindset that I was expecting basically only about an upgraded Duke3D, which is effectively what we got when Gearbox finally released it. But now I hope to see a PROPER Duke Nukem game... one that captures the charm, the humor, and the action that Duke3D was (in)famous for. It is rather disheartening to see such a beloved macho character getting so thoroughly emasculated like this, both by the people that claimed to be such fans (Randy Pitchford and the people at Gearbox), and the "cawadoody" fans that clearly didn't exist back when Duke was a name to be reckoned with.

Michael Thornberg
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Randy (if you read this) just pay and forget all about it. Some battles are not worth the effort.