Gearbox Software is a video game studio and publishing company that currently owns the rights to the Duke Nukem franchise. The studio's co-founder and CEO, Randy Pitchford, is a controversial icon in the online gaming community.
In April 2021, Gearbox Software was acquired by the Embracer Group. At the time of the acquisition, Gearbox Software was valued in billions of US dollars.
Duke Nukem games
In 2010, Gearbox Software purchased the exclusive rights to the Duke Nukem franchise from 3D Realms.
Duke Nukem Forever
Gearbox Software recruited Allen Blum, co-designer of Duke Nukem 3D, and his development team at Triptych Games to finish production of Duke Nukem Forever, which they had inherited from 3D Realms. Following a 14-year development cycle at 3D Realms, the game was finished within a year and finally published in 2011.
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour
In 2016, Gearbox Software contracted Allen Blum and Richard "Levelord" Gray to add eight more levels to the classic Duke Nukem 3D. Several scrapped enemies and a scrapped weapon were reprised, and the game was ported to a modern engine. The final product was released under the title Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour.
Gearbox Software has a polarizing reputation in the online gaming community. While they are widely praised for their work on franchises like Borderlands and Half-Life, they are frequently criticized for their work on the Duke Nukem franchise, as well as some of their managerial decisions.
Criticisms of work on the Duke Nukem franchise
Critics often blame negative reception of Duke Nukem Forever on Gearbox Software and allege that development of the franchise has been too slow under Gearbox Software's ownership.
Some critics who are unaware of the franchise's history also mistakenly claim that Gearbox Software took the franchise from 3D Realms as part of a lawsuit. In reality, Gearbox Software was solicited and amicably sold the franchise, but when 3D Realms was bought and restaffed by a different company, the new staff had misconceptions about the details of the transaction.
Other critics incorrectly believe that the franchise's original developers at 3D Realms are being wrongfully denied the right to work on their own game. However, none of the franchise's developers are still employed at 3D Realms; in fact, Allen Blum, Richard "Levelord" Gray, and other key figures have more recently been contracted by Gearbox Software, not 3D Realms.
Criticisms of the profit-sharing model
At Gearbox Software, employees' compensation is based on a profit-sharing model; their typical paychecks are beneath the industry standard but are accompanied by bonuses derived from profits. In years when profits exceed expectations, Gearbox Software's employees are vastly overpaid relative to industry standards, but when profits fall short, Gearbox Software is criticized in the online gaming community for underpaying their employees. Many critics believe this practice is inherently unfair. It should be noted that one common misconception about the profit-sharing model is the idea that unmet profit forecasts are failed "promises" to employees, which is not how profit-sharing works.