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Gearbox Has Owned The Duke Franchise Rights For Months

2K and Gearbox pulled off quite a surprise when they announced at PAX that work on the legendarily delayed Duke Nukem Forever would continue under Gearbox’s guidance.

Yesterday, it was also confirmed that Gearbox owns the full intellectual property rights to Duke Nukem and 2K owns the long-term exclusive publishing rights. The story of how this franchise passed from the hands of 3D Realms (the original Duke developers) is an involved one, and it transpires that Gearbox has actually held the Duke rights for a number of months.

In an interview with Gamasutra, Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford details how the torch was passed. 3D Realms laid off the Duke Nukem Forever staff in May of 2009, but certain team members, including Allen Blum, couldn’t let the project go.
Under the mantle of “Triptych Games,” Blum and his team continued to work on Duke Nukem Forever throughout 2009. Pitchford (a former 3D Realms employee himself) learned of this and approached Gearbox executive Brian Martel, the Triptych team and, finally, George Broussard and Scott Miller (the co-owners of 3D Realms.)

An unofficial agreement was reached towards the end of 2009 and a deal officially struck some months later. The Duke rights would pass to Gearbox Software for an undisclosed sum and Forever would finally see a release date.

There was, however, still the minor issue of Take-Two’s (owners of 2K Games) ongoing lawsuit against 3D Realms for non-completion of the project. A lawsuit liability which now passed to Gearbox Software, along with the rights. Pitchford visited Christoph Hartmann, president of 2K Games and, as he puts it, was “able to help clear the drama away.” This, presumably was the point at which the Take-Two lawsuit was settled, and when 2K acquired long-term exclusive publishing rights.

Though Gearbox has had the rights to the game for some months, Pitchford states that what they purchased back in 2009 “wasn’t a game.” That is what Allen Blum and others in the team have been working on – putting together the technical assets and ideas into a releasable game. Now, Duke Nukem Forever is reported to be in “the polishing stages,” and may, at last, be available to the general public in 2011.

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