So far, the month of May has been the most tumultuous for 3D Realms since the studio’s inception in 1987. On May 6, reports that the Texan studio–which had been working on Duke Nukem Forever since 1997–had shut down were apparently confirmed by webmaster Joe Siegler. Two days later, the shop issued a group “Goodbye” accompanied by a photo of nearly three dozen staffers.
Then, on Friday, May 14, would-be Duke Nukem Forever publisher Take-Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto, BioShock) sued 3D Realms’ parent company, Apogee Software Ltd. According to the Bloomberg news service, Take-Two accused 3D Realms of failing to deliver on its contractual obligation to produce the game after being paid $12 million in 2000. It sought an immediate temporary restraining order preventing the release of any Duke Nukem Forever assets by Take-Two.
Today, 3D Realms hit back at Take-Two in the form of a statement sent out by CEO George Broussard to several media outlets. In it, the company defiantly declares that it is not going out of business.
“Despite rumors and statements to the contrary, 3D Realms (3DR) has not closed and is not closing,” reads the statement. “3DR retains ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise. Due to lack of funding, however, we are saddened to confirm that we let the Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) development team go on May 6, while we regroup as a company. While 3DR is a much smaller studio now, we will continue to operate as a company and continue to license and co-create games based upon the Duke Nukem franchise.”
The statement then lays out 3DR’s version of the tangled series of events which led to this month’s dramatic developments. It claims that Take-Two has not given 3DR a single cent in signing bonuses or advances for DNF, but instead paid the $12 million mentioned in the suit to defunct publisher GT Interactive. (The publisher was absorbed by Atari parent Infogrames in 1999.) 3DR contends that, in 2008, it was paid a $2.5 million advance by Take-Two for “an unannounced game,” and the only money it ever received for DNF was a $400,000 advance from GT Interactive.
To date, 3D Realms claims it has sunk over $20 million of its own money into Duke Nukem Forever, and that at of the end of 2008, it realized it required outside help to continue. “Late last year, 3DR began negotiations with Take-Two to provide funding to complete the DNF game,” read its statement. “In the meantime, 3DR was hitting mutually-agreed milestones, despite not having a new agreement finalized. Take-Two was well aware that 3DR needed the funding to continue the DNF game development.”
By 3D Realms’ account, “Suddenly, after months of negotiations, Take-Two materially changed the parameters of the proposed funding agreement. 3DR informed Take-Two that it could not financially afford the changes Take-Two was suggesting and would be forced to release the team if an agreement was not reached.”
“Take-Two made a last-minute proposal to acquire the Duke Nukem franchise and the 3DR development team. Take-Two’s proposal was unacceptable to 3DR for many reasons, including no upfront money, no guaranteed minimum payment, and no guarantee to complete the DNF game. From 3DR’s perspective, we viewed Take-Two as trying to acquire the Duke Nukem franchise in a ‘fire sale.’ Those negotiations fell through on May 4, a deal never materialized, and the DNF team was sadly released a few days later.”
Though it would not address the specifics of Take-Two’s suit, 3D Realms statement did say the legal action is “without merit” and “a bully tactic to obtain ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise.” It revealed a New York judge has denied Take-Two’s request for the restraining order, and promised to fight on.
“We will vigorously defend ourselves against this publisher,” read the statement’s final line.
For the moment, 3D Realms appears to have the last word. “We have no further comment on the matter at this time,” was all a Take-Two rep would say on the looming legal battle.