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|Industry||Computer and video games
|Headquarters||Denmark, formerly Dallas, Texas, United States|
|Products||Duke Nukem franchise, Shadow Warrior, Bombshell and others|
|Owner||SDN Invest |
Number of employees
|Parent||SDN Invest (2014–present)|
3D Realms (legal name Apogee Software, Ltd.) is an American video game publisher and video game developer based in Garland, Texas, United States, established in 1987. It is best known for popularizing the shareware distribution model and as the creator of franchises on the PC such as Duke Nukem, and also the publisher of other franchises such as Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D.
While the company is known as "3D Realms", the legal name of the company is Apogee Software, Ltd. The name "3D Realms" was initially created as a branding label in July 1994 for use by Apogee which would be dedicated to just 3D games (as Apogee was then known for several styles of games). However, shortly after this, 3D games started to dominate the industry, and Apogee decided to direct its focus on this style of game; as such, "Apogee" was abandoned as a trade name in late 1996 and 3D Realms Entertainment, Inc. was formed to continue the brand. In July 2008, however, it announced that the brand Apogee Software would be revived with new games, but licensed to an external company, Apogee Software, LLC.
Apogee started in 1987 with the release of Scott Miller's Kingdom of Kroz, which used crude extended ASCII characters as graphics. Nevertheless, the game sold quite well and Apogee was born. In 1991, George Broussard joined the company as co-owner, bringing with him several games of his that were previously released under the name Micro F/X.
Apogee published games by other developers in addition to its own in-house titles. One of these developers, id Software, contributed to Apogee's success with games such as Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D, but later severed their ties with Apogee with their release of Doom in 1993 (mostly because id was afraid Apogee could not handle the phone orders to upgrade the shareware version of Doom).
Unlike traditional larger publishers that sold games in retail outlets, Apogee (like many independent developers) sold their products using the shareware method, depending mostly on BBSes, such as Software Creations, for distribution of their software. President George Broussard explained, "We started marketing our games as shareware because it was an inexpensive way to get started."
Initial Apogee games (Beyond the Titanic and Supernova) were distributed as traditional shareware; that is, giving away the full game for free, and asking the customer to pay for it if he/she liked it. Upon registering, the customer would be able to receive support and help for the game. However, this marketing model did not prove to be profitable enough, so Apogee decided to implement a variation on the shareware model. Starting with Kingdom of Kroz, Apogee would provide the first installment of a game composed of several episodes (usually three) for free (as shareware), and sell the remaining installments by mail order. Registering the first episode would also enable the customer to receive support for that game, as well as giving them cheat codes for it. This method became known as the Apogee Model. Initially, each episode of a game was sold separately, with discounts for buying all the episodes together. Later games did not offer the option to buy a specific episode; the customer could play the shareware version (first episode) for free, and buy the full registered version (all episodes) if they liked the game. The former model has some similarities with the episodic model currently used by some game companies.
Apogee's commercial success led to the widespread adoption of the shareware model (and most of the time, the specific Apogee Model) by other major publishers such as Capstone, Parallax Software, id Software, Activision and Epic MegaGames, and also led to a growth of Software Creations BBS, which would become the largest BBS in North America. Apogee later moved to the traditional retail model through distributors like GT Interactive; however, it still offers its earlier titles via shareware.
Apogee to 3D Realms
With the original intent to create a division for every genre of game Apogee produced, the two brand names 3D Realms (formed in July 1994) and the now disused Pinball Wizards were created. Instead of publishing every game under Apogee as it had been in the past, the goal of this strategy was to create a different brand for each type of game genre, making each new game identifiable based on which brand it belonged to. This enabled Apogee to target different markets.
However, many of those varied genres such as platform or scrolling shooter (that were much of Apogee's early releases) were slowly dying out in the late 1990s, which made this strategy unnecessary. In addition, due to the increasingly lengthy development time in producing a game title, video game publishers were no longer releasing titles at the rapid rate at which they once were.
3D Realms was created in 1994 for the 3D game Terminal Velocity and was responsible for the latest installments of the successful Duke Nukem games and for producing the Max Payne series (earlier 3D games like Rise of the Triad were released under the Apogee name). The Pinball Wizards name was created for the 1997 pinball title Balls of Steel, but has not been used since.
The last game to be published under the Apogee name was Stargunner in 1996. Since 1998, all the company's games have been using a 3D engine (even if the gameplay is 2D, like in Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project). As a result, 3D Realms has replaced Apogee as the brand name to publish games under. Also, by the end of the 1990s, Apogee felt their brand name was more associated with old, outdated games and adopted the 3D Realms brand for all future releases. When the 3D Realms name was first conceived, the official motto was Reality is our Game. This motto is no longer used.
The Apogee name was spun off as Apogee Software LLC in 2008, a separate company that would handle distribution, remakes, and other developments related to older Apogee games.
The latest game released by 3D Realms was Prey, on July 11, 2006 after being in development for eleven years. Prey was originally developed internally by 3D Realms, but after several years of delays, the company outsourced the development to Human Head Studios.
The other major project that 3D Realms was working on was Duke Nukem Forever, the sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. It was announced in 1997, and on May 6, 2009, its development was halted due to the development team being let go. The official release date of the game was "when it's done." During the years of the development of the game, some outside developers have developed and published Duke Nukem spin-offs.
On May 6, 2009, due to lack of funding, major staff cuts were initiated with the entire development team being laid off and other employees being given notice of their employment with the company being terminated. The official company website briefly went offline on that day, but went back up soon afterwards. While there was no official statement at that moment on the closure, apart from messages on the 3D Realms forum, a final message appeared in the front page of the site, showing a group photo of the 3D Realms team, with the caption "Goodbye. Thanks for being fans and for all your support."
It was reported on May 14, 2009 that Take-Two, holders of the publishing rights of Duke Nukem Forever, filed a breach of contract suit against Apogee Software Ltd (3D Realms) over failing to deliver the aforementioned title. Take-Two asked for a restraining order and a preliminary injunction, to make 3D Realms keep the Duke Nukem Forever assets intact during proceedings.
On May 18, 2009 3D Realms key executives released the first full official "press release" with their side of the developments. "... 3D Realms (3DR) has not closed and is not closing. ... 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 3DR is a much smaller studio now, we will continue to operate as a company and continue to licence and co-create games based upon the Duke Nukem franchise. ... Take-Two’s proposal was unacceptable to 3DR for many reasons, including no upfront money, no guarantee minimum payment, and no guarantee to complete the DNF game. ...we viewed Take-Two as trying to acquire the Duke Nukem franchise in a “fire sale.” ...we believe Take-Two’s lawsuit is without merit and merely a bully tactic to obtain ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise. We will vigorously defend ourselves against this publisher."
On September 3, 2010, Take-Two announced that development of Duke Nukem Forever had been shifted over to Gearbox Software, effectively ending 3D Realms' association with the game after 12 years of stunted development. 3D Realms remained a co-developer on Duke Nukem Forever, due to their involvement in developing most of the game. However, the rights and intellectual property were sold to Gearbox, who are now the owners of the Duke Nukem franchise. 3D Realms retained certain rights to the Duke Nukem back catalogue, but finally transferred all rights to Gearbox Software in 2015.
An external developer, Interceptor Entertainment, started work on a fan-project remake of Duke Nukem 3D in 2010. They received a limited authorization from Gearbox to proceed with the game, which was named Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded. However, after Duke Nukem Forever's release and negative reception in 2011, Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded was put on hold indefinitely.
In an interview conducted with Scott Miller in April 2011, Miller specified that 3D Realms was involved with several projects citing, "Yes, we have several projects underway, all fairly small—not any big console games. Once DNF comes out we'll be definitely looking to invest into other projects, and maybe other up-n-coming teams who are blazing new trails on smaller platforms, like smart phones and XBLA. We have a long history of investing in young, unproven teams, going way back to Id Software, and including other notables like Parallax Software (we were the first studio to invest in Descent), and Remedy Entertainment (Death Rally and Max Payne). So, we like that model and will keep doing it in the future. We seem to have a good eye for unproven talent waiting for some experienced guidance and hard-to-find funding".
In June 2013, 3D Realms sued Gearbox for unpaid royalties as well as unpaid money for selling the Duke Nukem IP. The lawsuit was dropped in September 2013 with 3D Realms apologizing with an announcement that they had resolved any differences they had with Gearbox.
3D Realms has since sold the rights of some of its older titles, leading to several remakes. One of them, Rise of the Triad, was developed by Interceptor Entertainment and published in 2013 by Apogee Software LLC. Another remake, Shadow Warrior, was developed by Flying Wild Hog, and published by Devolver Digital in 2013.
In February 2014, Gearbox sued 3D Realms, Interceptor Entertainment and Apogee Software for developing a new game called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction. Gearbox stated that it was still the rights holder of the Duke Nukem franchise, and permission had not been granted by them to develop the game. 3D Realms soon after released a statement admitting its wrongdoing. The lawsuit was settled in August 2015, with Gearbox stressing that it was still the lawful owner of the Duke Nukem IP.
On March 3, 2014, it was announced that Danish investor Mike Nielsen's company SDN Invest (he is also behind Interceptor Entertainment) bought 3D Realms and Nielsen was appointed as new CEO of the company.
- "Owners of Interceptor Entertainment Acquire 3D Realms". Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "3D Realms Site: Corporate Profile". 3D Realms. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
3D Realms Entertainment and Pinball Wizards are divisions of Apogee, set up as alias (d/b/a) names.
- "Apogee Return To Feast On The Living (And Duke Nukem)". Kotaku. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
- Alexander Antoniades (April 8, 2014). "Apogee Software: When the sultans of shareware went retail". Gamasutra.
- Bo Moore and Chris Kohler (March 24, 2014). "Dueling Developers Go to War Over Duke Nukem’s Fate". Wired (magazine).
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Miller's biggest accomplishment is in marketing, as he takes credit for starting the "Apogee model of marketing."
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