Reportedly, Gearbox Software employees earn less than the average game developer. The studio makes up for this with profit-sharing, whereby staff receive bonuses based upon game sales. Profits are split 60/40; 60 percent goes to the studio and its owners, while the remaining 40 percent is divided amongst employees. As such, the remarkable success of Borderlands 3 meant bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars, or hundreds of thousands in some cases, would be handed out. However, a meeting with CEO Randy Pitchford earlier in the week resulted in staff learning that bonuses won’t be that steep.
A report from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier shares anecdotes from six Gearbox employees, each of whom spoke anonymously. Apparently, Gearbox’s royalty system has been in place since day one. It proved especially beneficial to workers after Borderlands 2’s 2012 release. Some were even able to purchase houses, Schreier reports. Such momentum dragged in recent years, though, notably due to poor market performances from titles such as 2013’s Alien: Colonial Marines and 2016’s Battleborn. Consequently, quarterly bonuses took quite the hit.
Naturally, this was supposed to change with Borderlands 3. Several employees were on track to receive six-figure bonuses, according to Kotaku’s sources. Those who have worked at Gearbox the longest were to obtain bigger payments than others.
Three people who attended this week’s aforementioned meeting claim Pitchford announced bonuses would be much lower than expected. While Borderlands 3 did sell well, moving nearly eight million units in less than six months, Pitchford explained the new entry cost more to make than anticipated. The company’s recent growth played a part in the lower bonus figures, as well. Reportedly, the CEO made no mention of coronavirus-related troubles as a cause for lower payments. Sources also allege Pitchford encouraged staff to leave if they didn’t like the profit-sharing system.
He at least addressed hopes to pay employees extra upon potentially receiving an advance on future royalties from publisher 2K Games. Still, this sour turn of events may put many a Gearbox employee in a rough spot. Quite a few made plans based on the previously made promises, according to Kotaku. How the already evident backlash from such news will affect things going forward currently remains to be seen.