Gearbox CEO Reportedly Tells Financially-Slighted Devs They Can Quit if They’re Unhappy

The company has reportedly under delivered on its royalty bonuses, shortchanging its employees.

Kotaku is reporting that developers over at Gearbox Software won’t be receiving royalty bonuses equivalent to what they were promised for the development of Borderlands 3.

For some context here, Borderlands 3 sold about 8 million copies according to publisher Take-Two, which touted these numbers out an earnings call back in February. The company has also called the franchise a “billion dollar global brand,” and is just generally happy to talk about how successful and profitable Borderlands is at any given opportunity. You would think that the people who helped make Borderlands 3 would be getting their fair share of the financial boon, but yesterday, CEO Randy Pitchford told them they wouldn’t be receiving royalty bonuses they were told they’d be getting, which was apparently supposed to be somewhere within “tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands” of additional dollars in their pockets.

While employees have still received some additional compensation, Gearbox’s standard salaries are below industry average, according to former and current staff, and are apparently meant to be offset by these bonuses. That already seems suspect, but let’s keep going. The profit-sharing system the company has in place is that royalties from all of the games developed by Gearbox are split 60/40. The 60% goes back into the company and its owners, with the other 40% going back to employees as quarterly bonuses. This has been proven to be a pretty decent deal during big successes like Borderlands 2, which, according to Kotaku’s report, allowed some employees to buy houses with their bonus money.

After the less-than-stellar performance of games like Alien: Colonial Marines and the hero shooter Battleborn in 2012 and 2016 respectively, these bonuses have been smaller in number than they were after Borderlands 2. Given Borderlands’ success as an IP, Gearbox higher ups and employees were expecting bigger returns with Borderlands 3, to the tune of six-figure checks, which is what management promised and developers planned for.

But then yesterday, Pitchford broke the news to the studio that these checks would be much smaller than anyone expected, citing Borderlands 3‘s expensive development, lower-than-projected sales, and the company’s expansion into a second studio located in Quebec meaning there were more employees to distribute royalty checks to. The additional development costs were attributed to switching to Unreal Engine 4 adding more development time, as well as a need to recoup costs for both the game (roughly $95 million), as well as DLC like last month’s Guns, Love, and Tentacles: The Marriage of Wainwright & Hammerlock,” bringing the full budget to around $140 million.

In other news:

Now, if you’re an employee in this scenario, you’re more than likely a little peeved about the situation. According to Kotaku’s sources, several people working at Gearbox make their financial plans under the assumption that they’re going to be getting this money. But from the sound of it, Randy Pitchford, ever the peach, told employees that if they were unhappy with the way things are, they were free to quit.

Pitchford, quitting a toxic job isn’t exactly a luxury anyone has right now. Especially not employees you’re apparently underpaying as a rule while you sit on millions of dollars from your own bonuses. We’re in the midst of a pandemic that is closing down entire arms of massive companies, so instead of being so dismissive of your employee’s concerns, you could say…literally anything of comfort or compassion after these people worked on your toilet humor shooter for all these years?

According to Kotaku’s sources, Pitchford said he would be attempting to get money to employees as part of any advances from 2K for future projects. But given that promises seem to mean very little at Gearbox, let’s not hold our collective breath, everyone.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Georgia-based writer who still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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