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Duke Nukem rights lawsuit settled, with Gearbox declared full owner

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Gearbox Software and 3D Realms have settled a lawsuit over an aborted Duke Nukem project, which became the forerunner to the forthcoming Bombshell by Interceptor Entertainment.

joint statement said Gearbox, 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment "voluntarily ended all litigation between them." The terms of the settlement were not announced, though Gearbox in a separate statement reaffirmed it "is the full and rightful owner of the Duke Nukem franchise."

The litigation stemmed from the announcement in February 2014 of Duke Nukem Mass Destruction, an isometric-view shooter for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. 3D Realms had licensed Interceptor to develop the game.

After a teaser site for Mass Destruction appeared, Gearbox sued, asserting full rights to and control over any new Duke Nukem video game. 3D Realms then countersued, asserting that it did retain the right to develop the game, and also saying that the Duke Nukem trademark remained its property.

complicated acquisition of 3D Realms and its parent company then followed, with Interceptor's Mike Nielsen placed in charge as the studio's new CEO.

"When Interceptor acquired a license to develop Duke Nukem Mass Destruction [or Duke Nukem Survivor, its working title] from 3D Realms, we did so in good faith and were not aware of any conflict," Nielsen said in the joint statement. "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."

In a separate statement Frederik Schreiber, Interceptor's CEO, said "it was my own decision to pull the plug on Duke Nukem Reloaded, even though we were fully allowed to continue development."

Gearbox Software acquired the Duke Nukem franchise in 2010, in what it would later desccribe as a favor to 3D Realms, facing extensive legal problems for its inability to complete and deliver Duke Nukem Forever. Gearbox finished the project for Take-Two Interactive in 2011. Duke Nukem Forever, whose development stretched back to 1997, was a critical failure but Take-Two said it ultimately proved profitable.

Gearbox Software and 3D Realms were in settlement discussions since the spring, with terms leaving open the possibility of 3D Realms reacquiring all rights to Duke Nukem under complex terms that included paying the cost of settling the case.

Meantime, Duke Nukem Mass Destruction was reconstituted as Bombshell, an action-RPG featuring a female protagonist. It is due to launch sometime this year for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.