While the company is now known as "3D Realms", the legal name of the company is still 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 their focus on this style of game, and as such, the Apogee name was eventually abandoned as a public marketing name in late 1996. In July 2008, however, they announced that the brand Apogee Software will be revived with new games on the mobile platform, but licenced to an external company, Apogee Software, LLC.
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 (although in its earliest stages, Doom was still an Apogee title).
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.
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 would enable 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 3-D title Terminal Velocity and is 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 1998 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. That motto is no longer used and there is no official motto.
The other major project that 3D Realms has been working on is Duke Nukem Forever, the upcoming sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. It was announced in 1997 and as of 2008 is still in development. The official release date of Forever is "when it's done. During this period, some outside developers have developed and published Duke Nukem spinoffs.
3D Realms has stated that it will not support Nintendo's Wii video game system. In a blog post, Scott Miller stated that he believed the system would be a "distant third" among seventh generation video game consoles behind the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and that the system would be Nintendo's last.
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