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Borderlands 3 Exec Defends Epic Exclusivity After Steam Review Bombing

Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford says Borderlands Steam review bombing is helping to affirm his opinion on Borderlands 3 Epic Games Store exclusivity.

April 6, 2019

It’s no secret that developers aren’t a fan of review bombing — and Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford can be added to that list. Following a wide-spread review bomb of Borderlands games on digital marketplace Steam, Pitchford is using it as a basis to defend Borderlands 3 moving exclusively to competitor Epic Games Store. Even if his claims make no sense.

If you are even remotely following the gaming scene, you have heard of Epic Games’ active charge on the status quo, obtaining exclusivity rights for both new and old games alike on their platform Epic Games Store. While developers and publishers are over the moon about competition and better fee deals, gamers are not nearly as pleased — often complaining about anti-competitive practices, a lack of features, and security flaws on Epic Game Store.

And while Borderlands 3 is one of the most anticipated games of the generation, a wave of negativity spread among the PC fanbase when it was revealed the game would be a six-month Epic Game Store exclusive. As with games like Metro Exodus, a lot of these gamers let their opinion be heard by leaving negative reviews on prior Borderlands games on Steam:

With a litany of these reviews pouring in, Pitchford has taken to Twitter to express his disapproval for this practice:

Though weirdly, embedded in his disapproval are some odd claims: “Steam has no interest in correcting this misuse” of review bombing, which both emboldens his opinion on publisher 2K Games decision to shift to Epic Games Store and may even impact developer Gearbox’s Steam strategy moving forward.

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But this… simply isn’t true. Well, at least the first part. Steam has been making active moves to mitigate review bombing of “off-topic” reviews. As mentioned in our previous reporting, it appears that Borderlands games are the first to benefit from Steam’s newly revamped review system that systematically filters out date ranges where review bombs are a concern:

So while many may disagree with content creator’s decision to switch exclusively to a platform that will generate them a better percentage of profit, using “review bombing” as a basis for switching to Epic doesn’t seem like a defensible claim.

On top of that, it ignores the actual underlying causes of review bombing — a lack of communication and sense of the community “being heard.” Co-founder of developer Stray Bombay Chet Faliszek highlights this in his Tweet:

This position follows a similar line of thinking as Valve and Steam Co-Founder, Gabe “GabeN” Newell when it comes to software piracy:

“We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable.”

Similarly, review bombing (while obviously a massive inconvenience to game developers and publishers) can be seen from that lens — an imperfect means of everyday gamers to have their voices heard when no other avenue exists. Though Epic Games Store removes the ability for everyday gamers to leave reviews, it would only solve in-service review bombing. Not the underlying problem, or the consequences it has on the communities or their mentality about a franchise and the direction of the developers.

In any case, Borderlands 3 launches on PC (via Epic Games Store), PS4, and Xbox One on September 13, 2019; the game will come to Steam six months later, so long as Gearbox, 2K Games, and Pitchford don’t change their minds. You can pre-order the three various editions via Amazon now.

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Lou Contaldi
@loucontaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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