What's Happening to Duke Nukem Forever? Take-Two Clarifies Publishing Deal

When the news broke that Duke Nukem Forever developer 3D Realms was shutting down, many fans were let down--perhaps moreso than if it had happened years ago.

The reason? After over 12 years in development, trailers were starting to find their way out again. Footage had been shown. Screenshots were released. Word from company executives lead many to believe that the final push had began. nope And following the closing of the studio, new details seem to indicate this was the case. Leaked internal 3D Realms documents show that many of the game's levels were nearly finished.

But now the team at 3D Realms is no more, the employees already scattered due to a lack of funds. Does this leave any hope that Duke Nukem Forever, as it stands today, might eventually be released in some official form? Is it finally time to stop betting on Duke?

When asked of its deal with 3D Realms, publisher Take-Two told us that while it has never funded development of Duke Nukem Forever, it owns the exclusive rights to publish the game. And upon further questioning, this contract appears to be binding.

"We have the exclusive publishing rights, not right of first refusal," Take-Two spokesman Alan Lewis explained. "Meaning we are the only ones that have the right to publish the title."

Lewis later clarified that these rights will never expire--meaning that unless it sells the rights, Take-Two still has control over the eventual distribution of Duke Nukem Forever.

When asked whether Take-Two also owns any part of the Duke Nukem Forever assets under that agreement, Lewis reiterated that it simply retains the publishing rights, indicating that 3D Realms likely still owns the accumulated work done on the project. 3D Realms president George Broussard declined to comment on the matter.

So while the remaining 3D Realms executives could independently find a new home for the unfinished game, Take-Two has the ultimate right to publish the title--or to not publish it. In the latter case, whether it would sell those rights to another company, or whether a new developer might try to sidestep the Take-Two license by changing the game's content to a degree--and risk a lawsuit--is something left to speculation at this point.

Either way, 3D Realms still owns the rights to Duke Nukem himself, meaning that the property will not be locked down by a publisher unwilling to use it. If the project known as Duke Nukem Forever is left to rot in the vault, an eventual Fallout 3-style revival of the series by a new studio remains a possibility.

And of course, publisher Apogee Software is promising a new Duke-related press release later this week. The announcement may relate only to the new handheld Duke Nukem Trilogy that debuts this fall, so fans are urged to cautiously hedge their bets against Duke.