Can Duke Nukem reinvent itself as a major gaming title?

The nearly 30-year-old video game franchise Duke Nukem has sold millions of copies over the decades and received widespread praise from gaming critics around the globe.

Despite Duke Nukem’s longevity and popularity among loyal fans, the newest versions of the game have also been panned by various gaming critics. Because of this, the game never succeeded in having the cultural impact that it perhaps could have had.

The reasons for this are myriad, with the franchise suffering from poor leadership and execution from developers, particularly since the turn of the millennium. The ill-fated move to PSP and the seemingly endless wait for Duke Nukem Forever both did untold damage to our macho, alien-hating character.

If the franchise is to recover from decades of neglect from its developers, it needs to undergo somewhat of a commercial makeover. So, how can Duke Nukem go from a nostalgic game of a bygone era to a cultural phenomenon? Read on to find out.

Duke Nukem Movie

Audiences are looking for multi-dimensional characters nowadays, not someone fighting their way out of a strip club.

Our beloved character hasn’t changed much since he first found his way onto our PCs in 1991. Duke Nukem is still representative of the values we associated with our favourite action heroes from the late 80s and early 90s. He’s a macho, gun-toting, catchphrase spouting protagonist with a penchant for kicking ass.

Unfortunately, modern consumers demand much more from their action heroes nowadays. Ever since the mid-noughties, comic book feature films reinvented the way we interact with action heroes.

No more are we faced with a one-dimensional character with a blood-lust or an overwhelming need for revenge. Instead, we’re treated to multifaceted characters struggling to overcome complex, human emotions.

In 1989, Jack Nicholson starred in Batman as the whimsical Joker, portraying the character as odd, quirky and ultimately evil. Fast forward to 2019 when Joaquin Phoenix played the role of the Joker, and this quirky portrayal rapidly transforms into a deeper exploration of mental illness and masculinity.

To really market itself to a mass audience, the Duke Nukem franchise needs to follow the lead of modern action films and present its main character on the silver screen as a complex individual.

Admittedly, the chances of that happening are slim. There have been numerous proposed feature films of Duke Nukem, all of which were at odds with the modern day action hero. For instance, the proposed plot of one such film was to feature aliens invading Duke’s favourite strip club.

Understandably, this idea was not picked up by a major development company as it would do little to advance the character to a larger audience.


Commercial Partnerships

The popularity of slot games makes them a major way to give a video franchise a much-needed boost.

Making a video game franchise successful today relies on much more than just a solid storyline and a well-produced game. To appeal to a mass market, a video game must seek brand exposure through commercial partnerships such as:

  • The gambling industry

As one of the fastest-growing industries in the western world thanks to the growth and popularity of online gambling. In the United Kingdom, online slot games currently bring in the single largest revenue of any gambling activity. Try it out for yourself by experiencing the exhilarating range of video game inspired games on offer at the famous 888 Casino when you play online slots games.

Billions of pounds are spent on internet slots every year across the UK and countries such as the United States, Australia and Canada. With such levels of competition in the industry, slots producers are always looking for new ideas, themes and niches to market their games.

Commercial partnerships with video games, movies and TV shows are a tried and tested way of boosting a slots popularity with players. The owners to the rights for Duke Nukem would be well-advised to forge a commercial partnership with a slot game producer, which would open up the brand to a much larger audience.

  • Fast food

Food may seem like a strange partnership to seek out, potentially even stranger than online slots. However, video games have a history of partnering with fast food companies to achieve better brand exposure.

The Fallout franchise has produced its own soda and Call of Duty even teamed up with a fast food chain to release the ‘Ultimate Care Package’. This meal included burger, fries and a drink and offered the chance to win the latest game release.

The exposure of a marketing campaign from a fast food restaurant such as McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway could be huge for the Duke Nukem franchise. The urban layout of many Duke Nukem games would also open up the possibility of in-game advertising for the chains, making the partnership an enticing prospect.


The Power of Freemium

Freemium has hugely boosted profits for the makers of games such as Fortnite.

The success of Fortnite in recent years has had a monumental impact on the way that video games developers are viewing the market. Freemium would be an interesting path for Duke Nukem to explore, if developers neither have the interest nor the resources to improve and update the current game.

For a relatively small outlay, developers can release an online game free of charge, which features the staples of the franchise so far, combined with the addictiveness of online play and interaction.

Freemium is certainly no barrier to revenues either, as the producers of Fortnite will testify to after making huge profits from in-game purchases.


To boost the game’s popularity and avoid falling off into obscurity, something needs to change with the Duke Nukem franchise. Whether that be a complete reinvention of the character to fit with modern day values, or a move to freemium gaming, we hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Duke Nukem. If the past decade or so of Duke Nukem is anything to go by though, we won’t hold our breath.