Well, that only took a year and a half to resolve. The strange case of Gearbox and 3D Realms in a legal battle over the fate of Duke and who said what about who behind the bike sheds is over in a blaze of politeness. The very quick summary of Gearbox's case is that they said 3D Realms had been claiming they never sold Gearbox the rights to the Duke franchise. 3D Realms followed this up by, er, saying exactly that but have now recanted that statement in the resolution of the lawsuit. It puts the rights to Duke firmly in Gearbox's pocket to, sadly, develop as they wish.
Mike Nielsen, 3D Realms' CEO, had this to say:
"When Interceptor acquired a license to develop ‘Duke Nukem Mass Destruction’ (‘Duke Nukem Survivor’) from 3D Realms, we did so in good faith and were not aware of any conflict. We never intended to cause any harm to Gearbox or Duke, which is why we immediately ceased development after Gearbox reached out. To secure the future of Duke, 3D Realms has agreed with Gearbox that a single home serves the IP best. And as big Duke fans, we’re excited to see what Gearbox has in store for the ‘King.’ As for our own games, we’re eager to complete development of the ‘Bombshell’ game and get it in the hands of our fans."
Frederik Schreiber, president of Interceptor but also VP of 3D Realms (the two companies are massively intertwined for various reasons none of which I understand or could explain without committing libel, I expect) followed up with this, among other statements:
"Now that the lawsuit is over, I’d like to say a few things about my history with Gearbox, and hopefully clear some things up. I’ve been a huge Duke fan for many years, and the original Duke Nukem 3D was a big influence on me and my career in this industry that I love.
"I want to express my deepest gratitude to Gearbox for allowing me to work on Duke Nukem Reloaded. I decided to cease production of Reloaded in 2011 to establish Interceptor and work on Rise of the Triad.
"I want to make it clear now, once and for all – It was my own decision to pull the plug on Duke Nukem Reloaded, even though we were fully allowed to continue development. I respect Gearbox for supporting a young developer, and I’m glad we can now put this behind us."
That's everyone smiling then. Gearbox's statement, which comes partly from Randy Pitchford, is a bit more forceful in its acknowledgement that they now own the franchise and implies there were other terms to the settlement that will remain undisclosed. Randy also wishes for the development of Bombshell to go well. After a reboot it is actually looking fairly good, by my estimation. Better, anyway.
And almost certainly better than any future Duke Nukem games will be, made by Gearbox or anyone else. The best outcome for the development of another game in that franchise is twenty years of build up so this generation can have the same jokes as the old one. They could even call it Duke Nukem: Never to pre-empt it all. Is there anything, dear readers, you find appealing about the idea of returning to the land of big, dumb and blonde?