Gearbox Reportedly Breaks Promise of Big Bonuses to Borderlands 3 Team
I wish this was a big April Fool's joke on behalf of Gearbox, but it's not.
Borderlands 3 ended 2019 as the fourth highest-selling game in the U.S. becoming a billion-dollar franchise in September of 2019. According to Kotaku, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford spoke to a part of the development team yesterday stating that they will no longer be receiving their expected royalty bonuses that could have between five and six figures depending on the employee and their history with the company. Based on statements to Kotaku in the past, Gearbox pays its developers a lower salary than industry standards, but in return gets a share of the profits for each game they help create.
From the employees that spoke to the site, many of them were promised six-figure bonuses, but Pitchford said that the reasoning behind the major cutback was due to the development costs for Borderlands 3. Along with the base game and the DLC that is still in motion, the entire project is costing publisher 2K a rough sum of $140 million dollars. Based on an agreement with Gearbox, the developer would not receive royalties until all costs were covered.
When Kotaku reached out for a statement Gearbox responded with the following:
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.
Royalty bonuses were apparently a big selling point when it came to hiring new employees as those who worked on Borderlands 2 for the company previously said to have been able to buy a house thanks to the bonuses they had received. It was also mentioned that another factor leading to the disappointing bonuses was due to the company increasing in size with now having a second studio in Canada. Pitchford also reportedly did not say that the coronavirus had any part in the decision and those who were upset about the announcement could quit if they were unhappy.