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El33t Question of the Week: Should Gearbox work on Duke Nukem, or its own projects?

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This past week, an amazing piece of news emerged: The long-suffering, oft-delayed, 12-years in the making first-person shooter Duke Nukem Forever will in fact see the light of day thanks to Gearbox Software (Borderlands, Brothers in Arms).

Duke Nukem Forever Logo

The studio struck a deal with Duke Nukem franchise creators and developers 3D Realms and has not only picked up where that company left off on Duke Nukem Forever, aiming to deliver a completed game sometime in 2011, but Gearbox has also acquired the intellectual property rights to the brand as well.

Gearbox has been working on Duke Nukem Forever since the end of 2009 following the mass layoffs at 3D Realms and a spot of legal trouble that emerged when publisher Take-Two found out that it wouldn’t be getting the game into which it had already sunk significant capital.

3D Realms LogoNow, as Gearbox has picked up development duties (and franchise rights), all of this trouble has been cleared away thanks to the studio’s good relationship with Take-Two (which published Borderlands under the 2K Games label).

With Duke Nukem Forever, Gearbox Software’s development slate is chockfull, with games such as Aliens: Colonial Marines, extra Borderlands downloadable content and support, talk of a new Brothers in Arms game, and the foregone conclusion of another Borderlands title.

The question is, can Gearbox handle the development of all of these games, and properly support them, and deliver titles and experiences that the studio is happy with, or more importantly, gamers are happy with?

Gearbox Software is a ‘little’ studio out in Plano, Texas, USA, and currently employs roughly 170 developers, spread out across multiple teams. If you take into consideration how many projects there are at the studio, and the need for DLC and patch support, are there enough developers to deliver quality games?

If also you factor in a common practice at game studios to form smaller strike teams tasked with prototyping and designing future games and projects, before that project ramps up with more developers, this number dwindles even further, given the amount of ‘secret’ projects Gearbox has on the burn.

Gearbox Software LogoThe studio is actively hiring more development talent, no doubt to deal with an extraordinary amount of titles, but the question is should Gearbox be working on another game that, previously, wasn’t its own and instead focus on its own IP in the future?

It’s got more than enough creative talent, and with Borderlands and Brothers in Arms, as well as other unknown franchises in the works in the bowels of the studio, should Gearbox be saddled with the success or failure of Duke Nukem Forever?

After 12 years in development, an awful lot can go right and wrong while designing and creating a game. Some ideas that may have seemed great even two years ago may be stale at this point. Additionally, if Duke Nukem Forever turns out to be something of a mediocre title, who will take the credit for letting it be mediocre? Gearbox or 3D Realms?

Similarly, who will take the credit if Duke Nukem Forever is a smash success? Gearbox or 3D Realms?

With Duke Nukem Forever, there’s 12 years of history and sky-high expectations to contend with: and vitriolic backlash in the making if Gearbox is seen as the company that doesn’t get it right.

Duke Nukem Forever

So here’s some final questions: Would you rather have let Duke Nukem Forever die, or perhaps even go to an outsource development house to get wrapped up, than see Gearbox burdened with the game’s development? Would you rather see Gearbox focus on its own IP now and in the future, than have to string together disparate pieces of some other studio’s ‘failed’ game? Or are you simply glad that Duke Nukem Forever will actually be released?

Add your thoughts in the comments below, and let us know what you think of Gearbox taking on the development of Duke Nukem Forever.

Be sure to tune in next week Tuesday for another discussion in El33tonline’s latest weekly feature!

PS: What burning questions do you want to put to El33tonline’s community? Drop us a line through our ‘Contact’ page and tell us what industry happenings you would like us to investigate further.

But right now, let’s talk about that Duke fellow…


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