After one of the most extended delays in the business and numerous false starts, Duke Nukem Forever is finally here. It’s also not very good, according to critics. That’s actually an understatement. The volume of negativity in reviews, some of which is downright scathing, prompted Jim Redner, head of the third-party PR handling the release, to send out an ill-advised tweet that unfortunately resulted in the end of his relationship with 2K Games. For a game with more than a decade and a half of expectation building up to its release, it’s safe to say that the launch of Forever has been a bit of a disaster.
That doesn’t mean Duke is finished, however. Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick sat down for a chat with Forbes following the game’s release, and he stated in no uncertain terms that there is more in store for the foul-mouthed video game character.
“We don’t really talk about it in detail but you will see future Duke IP coming from this company,” he said. “Part of it is the economic opportunities that interact with entertainment are so huge. Part of it is that we are very creative folks in control. Part of it is we don’t want to ever be in the position of dumping something down just to make another buck.”
One could argue that Forever is an example of “dumping something down,” but the counter is that the game was inherited by developer Gearbox Software following an extended and frequently aborted or delayed development in the hands of others. Rather than scrap the work that had been done, Gearbox built on what has shown itself to be a rather shaky foundation. The result, as many reviews point out, is a Frankenstein’s monster of a game that feels patchy and sewn together.
Zelnick sees more opportunities for Duke, but he also admits that that doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional console/PC sequel is what’s next. “If we can take some of our intellectual property and bring it to another medium in an extraordinary high quality way, that delights consumers and represents an interesting commercial opportunity for us, we will,” he said.
The company has already looked to BioShock as a possible franchise for bringing into another medium. We’ve seen this play out with the aborted film adaptation that was to be directed by Pirates of the Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski. Zelnick wasn’t speaking in specifics with that quote, but later in the interview he turns to address the possibility of higher-priced, higher-quality tablet games.
“We’ve certainly said we’ve got to do something for iPad and iPhone. We’ve got to try to do something for Android,” he said. “We tried [Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars] for the iPhone, and we’re thrilled that we did it, and it was creatively successful. At the price point for which we can sell on the iPhone, it is not going to be economically meaningful.”
The financial cost of developing a game like Chinatown Wars is too high to support a mobile device-only launch at a $10 price point. That game went to tablets and smartphones only after it had seen successful releases on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable platforms. Zelnick believes that a high-quality interactive experience can demand a higher price, even in the tablet/smartphone space, where game releases tend to top out at around $15.
“Tablets are ubiquitous,” he said. “And tablets are a great game platform. And it’s the right sized screen. And you use the tablet to have an engaging experience. So if all of that’s true, I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to sell a robust product [at a higher] price point.”