The sorry saga of Duke Nukem continues as Gearbox has launched a lawsuit against 3D Realms – again.
Back in 2015, Borderlands maker Gearbox retained the rights to the troubled Duke Nukem franchise after a messy lawsuit with 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment over the Duke Nukem intellectual property.
Previously, 3D Realms sold Duke Nukem to Gearbox, who finished development on Duke Nukem Forever and released the game in June 2011 – 15 years after the release of Duke Nukem 3D.
3D Realms was then bought by Danish developer Interceptor, who teased a game called Duke Nukem Mass Destruction. Gearbox sued 3D Realms, who later revealed isometric action game Bombshell, an altered version of Duke Nukem Mass Destruction without its titular character.
After Gearbox and 3D Realms settled their differences in 2015, Gearbox insisted it was “the full and rightful owner” of the Duke Nukem franchise.
But now, five years later, Gearbox is suing 3D Realms again, this time over breach of contract relating to the rights to the game’s music.
As reported by Digital Trends, Gearbox is suing 3D Realms parent company Apogee Software for failing to deliver the Duke Nukem IP “free and clear” – that is, Gearbox alleges Apogee withheld details of an agreement that impacts its ability to publish and republish Duke Nukem games.
Here’s where things get a little messy. This new lawsuit relates to a 2019 lawsuit filed by Robert “Bobby” Prince against Gearbox. The composer and sound designer alleges he owns the copyright on some of the music in 2016’s Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, itself a remaster of the 1996 original. Apparently Prince believes the use of his music in the earlier Duke games was subject to a licence agreement between Prince and 3D Realms. Thus, Gearbox does not own the rights to certain music it thought it owned the rights to.
Gearbox said it has worked out an agreement with Prince for the music in the upcoming Nintendo Switch version of Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, but it’s clearly incensed it has had to do so. And, according to Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford, 3D Realms has denied Prince’s claims and rejected an indemnification request that would absolve Gearbox of all financial responsibility of the claims.
So, as it stands, Gearbox and 3D Realms are headed to court to get a ruling on whether Prince’s claims are valid.
“We’re literally in the middle,” Pitchford told Digital Trends. “Either Bobby is right and deserves to be paid, in which case 3D Realms is wrong, or 3D Realms is right and Bobby’s wrong.
“And we don’t know. So, we need to bring a judge in and have a look at things from both sides.
“Nothing about Duke Nukem is about profit at this point. It’s about goodwill.”