As you have probably heard or read, 3D Realms, the developer of (the aptly named) Duke Nukem Forever, has gone out of business. The company website now features a big “Goodbye” message on the front page. The story was reported even in the mainstream media, including this BBC News article.
The release date for DNF has always been “When it’s done.” This scheduling choice seems to put a product on a slow train to vaporware, and I posted about it being way past expiration three years ago: A Long Time Coming. I could rehash the history, but game industry news site Shacknews has posted an updated article (originally from 2007), The Brief Long History of DNF: Post-3D Realms Edition, detailing a dozen years of unfulfilled promises and hype.
So, now Duke Nukem Forever is finally toast, all of the developers have been laid off, the company is gone, and the product is going to remain unpublished. The saga ends here, right?
Not so fast.
Next comes word that Take Two Interactive, who in 2000 (perhaps unwisely) purchased the publishing rights to this title (from another publisher) for $12 million, and reportedly (probably unwisely) renewed this agreement with 3D Realms in 2007, is now suing for breach of contract. Of course, they (definitely unwisely) never provided any development funding for the title, so there is not much left there to get…
… except the source code. Take Two immediately filed for an injunction to get a copy of the source code “to ensure the code is preserved and remains unharmed” while it prosecutes its lawsuit, as shown in this article about the release of the court documents.
Now it is revealed in this Gamasutra article that “3D Realms has not closed and is not closing” after all. They merely fired (sorry, “let go”) the entire Duke Nukem Forever development team due to lack of funding. Still, they (i.e., unnamed 3D Realms representatives) “believe Take-Two’s lawsuit is without merit and merely a bully tactic“. Really? Interesting.
Here is what we know:
- Company management did not do what it would take to ship this game.
- The development team did not do what it would take to ship this game.
- The publisher did not provide what it would take to ship this game.
- Incompetence reigns in this matter, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
- It will probably be another year before this matter is finally settled.
This whole story is a case study in poor choices and a wholesale failure of anybody involved to recognize and acknowledge the [situation] this has become. Trains wrecks are fascinating, though.
“Always Bet On Duke.” – I don’t think so.