As much as we love Duke, there’s no denying that his last major entry was nothing short of an under-performance. Of course, as it lacked so much direction and passed hands so many times over the years, its success would have been a miracle. That said, we’re not giving up hope that Duke Nukem could return in an official capacity. In our opinion, his best bet won’t be found by going forward, but by looking backward.
The most likely answer isn’t a big shiny modern follow-up like Duke Nukem Forever tried to be, but rather a return to the Duke 3D form which made him popular in the first place. As the success of Ion Fury and Dusk showed earlier in 2019, there is still a huge call for retro FPS games on classical style engines, and this could be a perfect fit for Duke.
Not only would this option be considerably cheaper than a modern full-3D alternative, but it would also raise possibilities in cross-over gaming. A coop campaign with Bombshell and Duke would be a dream come true, for example, and could bring further attention back to this form of traditional gaming. After all, 2D indie games so often borrow from the games we grew up with, yet 3D efforts on this front are much rarer.
We also need to factor in the inherent advantage which games running on retro-engines have. Specifically, we refer to their simplicity. Modern games, with all of their bells and whistles, can rarely handle more than a dozen enemies on screen at a time. Even the modern Doom suffered from this issue, which the first Doom never had.
These low requirements could potentially mark a new and untapped direction in retro battle-royale games. Getting modern machines to handle these setups could be a cakewalk compared to regular AAA royale games, and this is just the start.
One of the most important elements of modern gaming is the infrastructure, in the form of viewers. Drawing in viewers requires a game to have appeal. Classic games have this appeal on a base level, as many of today’s fans grew up playing the likes of Duke.
This is then combined with factors like sports betting. Sports betting traditionally covers the likes of golf, football, and basketball, but it has also been making increasingly larger strides into eSports. Some of the most popular eSports games, like Counter-Strike and StarCraft are themselves older games, which have succeeded in no small part because of their old-school and ageless appeal.
The largest question which remains is which direction would Gearbox and 2K games consider worth pursuing. Their recent failures of Duke might have struck them the wrong way, but there is no way they ignored the success of Ion Fury.
This might be a pipe-dream for now, but at the very least we can show our hope for a new old Duke game, whenever it should appear. Until then, we can still rely on the modding scene to keep things fresh, in whatever weird and wonderful forms these can take.