Battleborn Deserved Better Than Being Wiped From the Face of the Earth

The game has been delisted and its servers shut down.

Battleborn, Gearbox’s 2016 hero shooter, went offline in a tragically appropriate manner yesterday: without much attention from anybody. Publisher 2K announced last year the game’s servers would remain active until January 31, 2021, and despite a year-long notice, there wasn’t much in the way of fanfare. At least, not in most mainstream internet circles. The game’s subreddit, however, has several tributes to the game in its final day.

I’m crying now. So long, and thanks for all from Battleborn

Battleborn has a special place in my heart. I needed to put a little something up in the game room as tribute. from Battleborn

Looking back, it’s hard to say whether Battleborn was doomed to fail on its own merits or just landed in the absolute worst storm of circumstances. The game launched weeks before Overwatch came out and had a monopoly on the hero shooter genre for years (although alternatives such as Valorant are becoming commonplace as that game struggles to get its own shit sorted out), and the narrative of a one-sided rivalry between the two caught on fairly quickly. Which wasn’t helped by Gearbox stoking the flames itself.

Even in the years leading up to launch, Gearbox struggled to articulate what Battleborn was, and the studio’s CEO Randy Pitchford’s attempts to do so reached meme levels. Whether it was in his bizarre description of the game:

…and his bringing attention to a Battleborn porn subreddit…

And this Twitter interaction:

When Battleborn was out in the world and struggled to maintain a standing in the market, it went free-to-play in 2017 as a “Free Trial,” with rotating characters and access to the game’s multiplayer modes. But even that didn’t help it in the long run, as 2K announced the game’s servers would be shut down, rendering both the multiplayer modes and the campaign unplayable. Battleborn as an entity no longer exists, except in the hearts and minds of those who played it. Or in the memes of people who probably didn’t play it, but the internet loves a punching bag. And while the game may not have had much say in it, the narrative that surrounded it certainly hung it up on the stand.

More hero shooter news:

Personally, I didn’t have much attachment to Battleborn. I played it at a preview event and came away mostly positive, and when the full game was out it kind of came and went for me, as it did for a lot of people. But years of work by people who were likely suffering to put it into the world, has vanished in the blink of an eye.

Battleborn is hardly the only game that represents how poorly the video game industry handles preservation, with games like P.T. having become the face of the issue over the years. But it’s certainly one of the saddest. A game that was pretty much fine being raked through the coals as a joke is gone now, and even if the game’s impact wasn’t earth shattering like Overwatch, the work of those who made it and the joy of those who played it was something worth preserving. Now it’s been wiped away at the whims of a suit. You don’t have to have cared about Battleborn to recognize that fucking sucks.