Update: Our original article had inaccuracies that Gearbox has kindly requested us to remedy.
Gearbox Software has been accused of docking allegedly promised, albeit declared suggested, wage bonuses for many of its employees, despite the record-breaking sales of Borderlands 3.
While we didn’t think Borderlands 3 was all that great, it was certainly a well-crafted title in the looter-shooter series. With the title originally being revealed as a tech demo for Unreal Engine 4 back in 2015, the Borderlands 3 team had been toiling through development for years, all with the suggestion of an end-of-development bonus.
For developers at Gearbox, bonuses are not the icing-on-the-cake after years of hard work. Compared to the industry standard, monthly wages at Gearbox are infamous for being below-average. In exchange for low-end salaries, Gearbox offers its staff a percentage of a game’s royalties. This time that will not be the case.
Origimally reported on by Kotaku, the disappointing news was broken to employees by Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford last night. The anonymous employees describe Pitchford’s reveal as “crushing” and that it has completely ruined the financial plans many had laid out for themselves.
A disgruntled Pitchford told employees that were unhappy with this surprise reveal that they, “were welcome to leave”.
A further report by British outlet Eurogamer describes the on-site development as being a “a “golden handcuffs situation” which forced developers to stay and finish the game then claim their royalties”.
Gearbox issued a statement to Kotaku to try and calm the situation:
“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.”
However, with Pitchford still taking a substantial bonus for himself, yet again, the news has upset many of Gearbox’s employees.