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Duke Nukem Forever -- 2 Things the Long-Delayed Video Game Must Fix Right Away

PHOTO GALLERY: Timeline: Why Duke Nukem Forever Took An Eternity
Duke Nukem Forever, the most delayed video game ever, is coming out in May. The official follow-up to the massively popular '90s first-person shooter Duke Nukem 3D was originally slated for 1998 -- but anal-retentive development and, later, financial trouble at developer 3D Realms pushed the release back repeatedly. Developer Gearbox Studios bought the license a couple years ago and, through 2K Games, is publishing the long-awaited title on the Sony (SNE) PlayStation 3, Microsoft (MSFT) XBox 360, and the PC and Mac.

I had hands-on with the game recently and realized that, despite being charming, there were some key things 2K Games needs to add pronto. Duke Nukem Forever reflects how the video game market has changed in the past decade.

1. Multiplayer
The Duke Nukem Forever single player adventure has the trademark humor that made the first game popular, but 2K Games has not revealed any multiplayer details. This is a major problem.

First, the publishers of Duke Nukem competitors like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Halo usually offer their multiplayer plans before the single-player details. A decade ago, few console gamers could play online with other gamers. Today, the online communities PlayStation Network and XBox Live have 69 million and 30 million members respectively, and the first-person shooter genre thrives on competition.

Second, new multiplayer maps and options are what drive downloadable content. Downloadable content, or DLC, are add-ons that can be purchased online after the initial $60 game is bought. It has become a serious income stream for publishers: The first multiplayer map package for Activision's (ATVI) Call of Duty: Black Ops got more than 1.5 million downloads within the first 24 hours. At $15 a pop, Activision grossed $22.5 million in a day sans Microsoft's cut.

Considering Duke Nukem Forever's long, expensive development time, 2K Games literally cannot afford to not have a multiplayer plan in place and ready for the press. I asked 2K Games point blank about the multiplayer details and a representative said the only thing that could be shared would be that "...there would be multiplayer." One would hope so.

2. Mobile
Duke Nukem Forever has no known plans for the Apple (APPL) iPhone/iPod, Nintendo (NTYDO) 3DS, or Sony mobile platforms. This is disturbing for a number of reasons:

  • The Apple iPhone/iPod is a popular enough game platform for Nintendo to consider it the "number one threat." 2K Games has Civilization Revolution and other home console titles on the platform, but Duke Nukem Forever has not been announced.
  • The Nintendo 3DS will launch with Ubisoft's Ghost Recon, making it the first and, perhaps, only first-person shooter for the 3D system. It would have been a great opportunity for Duke Nukem Forever.
  • Sony has made news for not only its first PlayStation phone and a new PlayStation mobile game system, but the first PlayStation-branded tablet -- all this month! In 2011, being on the PlayStation 3 home system isn't going to be enough to satisfy gamers.
Fellow first-person shooter publisher id Software released the highly-anticipated game Rage first on the iPhone/iPod and, later this year, will release it on the home consoles and computers. It was number one on the App Store for several days and not only built buzz for the more complex versions of the game, but it helped fund the development of the home versions, too.

Ironically, id Software co-founder and COO John Carmack was also behind Doom and Quake, two '90s games that, along with Duke Nukem 3D, helped create the first-person shooter genre. As it stands, Duke Nukem Forever has to do a lot more to make up for lost time.

Photo courtesy of 2K Games