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3D Realms suing Gearbox over Duke Nukem Forever royalties

by Alice O'Connor, shacknews.com, Jun 13, 2013 10:45AM PDT

It seemed the Duke Nukem Forever saga was finally over, released and sunk without a trace, but oh no, not quite. Creator 3D Realms has filed a lawsuit against Gearbox Software--the developer which bought and finished DNF after 3DR closed--claiming that the Borderlands creator hasn't paid everything it owes, and is blocking an audit to find quite how much that is.

3D Realms claims it's owed over $1.3 million. Gearbox, stingingly, has responded saying "everyone wished that 3DR's game was better received" and that it lost both money and credibility.

It's been a long time since I had to read court documents about DNF, but not nearly long enough. Thanks a megaton to Duke4.net poster 'Green' for digging up the filing. Let's do this.

When Gearbox bought DNF--and the Duke Begins game it was once developing, turns out--it agreed to pay off a $2.9 million loan 3D Realms owed to an unspecified software company. Gearbox also agreed, 3DR says, that it wouldn't recoup the cost of the loan from royalties it'd owe to 3DR from sales of DNF.

3DR wanted to be quite clear about that point, so it double-checked with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. And has an included as evidence Pitchford's e-mail reply saying that's the case. But, 3DR says, Gearbox is refusing to pay royalties until that loan is covered. Which is a problem.

Between royalties and an advance it's entitled to a share of, 3D Realms claims Gearbox owes "over $1.3 million" in total. It can't come up with a precise figure because Gearbox is supposedly refusing to let 3DR bring in an independent auditor to examine the books.

Gearbox issued a brutal response to Law360, saying that it "enriched 3D Realms, saved 3DR from its debts and rescued 3DR from its failed dozen plus year attempt to ship Duke Nukem Forever." It claims it owes nothing, in short. And then Gearbox put the boot in.

"Everyone wished that 3DR's game was better received by the market for the benefit of gamers and profit to its creators," the unnamed representative said. "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."

It's unlikely we'll see the two companies settle it amicably over tea, then. To the courtroom!

3D Realms and parent entity Apogee may be essentially dead as a developer, but whatever's left still has some interesting assets to flex. March saw the unexpected release of an enhanced version of Duke Nukem 3D, while it's publishing a revival of the Rise of the Triad series, and a "reimagining" of its Shadow Warrior is in the works too.