Borderlands 3 Developers Accused of Cutting Employee Bonuses

Despite the apparent success of Borderlands 3, developer Gearbox has reportedly informed employees they will not receive the full bonuses they were previously promised.

Photo: 2K Games

A new report from Kotaku suggests that Borderlands 3 developer Gearbox Software are not being paid the bonus money they were promised.

The report indicates that employees at Gearbox are typically offered lower than average salaries in comparison to similar professions in that field. The trade-off is that employees are entitled to up to 40% of the company’s profits which are to be distributed evenly among eligible employees via quarterly “bonus” payments. On paper, it’s a fair system that has resulted in Gearbox employees making much more money than they would have after having worked on incredibly successful games.

However, multiple anonymous sources have informed Kotaku that they were told by Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford that the bonus checks employees were to receive for the sales of Borderlands 3 would not be as high as they were previously promised they would be not too long ago. Pitchford claims that Borderlands 3 ended up being more expensive than the studio had previously anticipated and that the developer’s initial sales projections were off.

The logistics which affect Borderland 3‘s sales and profits seem to be somewhat complicated. On the one hand, Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Gearbox’s parent company, 2K, had previously stated that they expect Borderlands 3 to set sales records for the franchise. However, it’s also been suggested that Borderlands 3‘s costs suffered as a result of the switch from the Unreal Engine 3 to the Unreal Engine 4 during the game’s development as well as a deal with 2K that meant Borderlands 3‘s DLC costs would have to be recouped before the game’s profits program kicked in.

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That situation is tricky, but what’s really upsetting people are the actions of Pitchford. Not only did management initially promise employees a much larger bonus, but when Pitchford and other informed them that would not be the case, he also invited anyone who was upset to quit. On top of that, it’s recently been alledged that Pitchford reached a side deal with 2K which rewarded him with an up to $12 million “Executive Bonus.” That bonus was reportedly held against the royalties that Gearbox would have paid to the rest of their employees, which means that Pitchford had to be paid first before everyone else got their share.

The lawsuit pertaining to that claim has since been dismissed in court, but none of this is a good look for Randy Pitchford who has previously been a source of controversy over his business decisions and even accusations of violence.

This story will undoubtedly continue to unfold, but as we’ve noted, this has hardly been the first time that Pitchford has been involved in such controversies. It’s also somewhat odd that Borderlands 3 benefited from a better distribution deal via the Epic Games Store and reportedly sold incredibly well, yet it seems that employees will not only not receive the kind of bonuses that they received after previous successes but won’t receive the kind of bonuses they were recently promised for this very game.

At a time when the spread of the coronavirus has nearly everyone worrying about their financial and professional futures, we can only hope that Gearbox and Pitchford make good on their reported promise to get their employees not just more money but the money they deserve.