Just when you thought Gearbox Software shenanigans have stopped in 2020, along comes this piece of news.
Sources told Kotaku that the makers of Borderlands 3 are not delivering on their promises of giving five/six-figure bonuses for the game’s massive sales. This news came as a shock for its developers because the game is described by its publisher as“a billion-dollar global brand” with huge sales success.
Employees at the studio will get small bonus checks, but nothing close to the tens or hundreds of thousands they were expecting according to six people close to Gearbox, all speaking anonymously. This news basically put a damper in many of its employees’ financial plans for the future.
So what happened? The game made a lot of money back but it was expensive to make, according to sources. One major factor was the game engine swap mid-development from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4. In addition, before Gearbox could receive any royalties from 2K Games, they have to recoup the game’s entire budget (US$95 million) and also the DLC’s budget (US$140 million or so) via a contract both companies signed.
This is rather scummy, especially when you factor in that Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford took a US$12 million bonus from the company when Borderlands 3 started development in 2016. I won’t be surprised at the least if its employees leave en masse after this development.
The company’s official statement regarding this is below:
Borderlands 3 represents an incredible value to gamers and an incredible achievement by the team at Gearbox Software. Our studio is talent-led and we believe strongly in everyone sharing in profitability. The talent at Gearbox enjoys participation in the upside of our games – to our knowledge, the most generous royalty bonus system in AAA. Since this program began, Gearbox talent has earned over $100M in royalty bonuses above and beyond traditional compensation.
In the most recent pay period Gearbox talent enjoyed news that Borderlands 3, having earned revenue exceeding the largest investment ever made by the company into a single video game, had officially become a profitable video game and the talent at Gearbox that participates in the royalty bonus system has now earned their first royalty bonus on that profit.
Additionally, a forecast update was given to the talent at Gearbox that participates in the royalty bonus to set expectations for the coming quarters. Gearbox is a private company that does not issue forward looking statements to the public, but we do practice transparency within our own family.