Video game development can be a thankless, and arduous process. As games have gotten bigger, and more expensive, publishers and developers have cut corners, and forced teams to crunch to make deadlines. In order to boost morale and help developers release games on time, publishers will often offer bonuses. Sometimes, these are tied to review scores, deadlines, or sales goals. Gearbox, the developer of the Borderlands franchise, has a similar pay structure in place, based on profit sharing. According to employees, profits from games are split with 60% going to the company, and 40% going to the team via bonuses. This year's bonuses should have been more significant based on the success of Borderlands 3, but employees allege that is not the case.
According to Kotaku, several Gearbox employees contacted the outlet after the team was notified by management that bonuses would be much smaller than the team had been led to believe, given the success of Borderlands 3. Management apparently blamed the smaller sums on higher-than-expected development costs, stemming from a shift from using Unreal 3 to Unreal 4. Between the game itself, and the DLC, Borderlands 3 apparently cost around $140 million to develop, and Gearbox won't see any royalties until all development costs are paid back in full to publisher 2K Games.
It's easy to understand the frustration of Gearbox's employees, right now. While bonus structures can be quite lucrative, they can also result in a lot of pain for those counting on the income. Borderlands 3 is the first big success for the company in quite some time; before the end of 2019, the game sold more than 8 million copies, and the game is the fastest selling title in 2K's history. Despite this success, employees still won't see the kind of pay they were expecting, especially when everyone could use the extra money, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Pay at Gearbox is apparently below average compared to other development teams, but the bonus structure is meant to balance that.0comments
While the story is certainly unfortunate, it should serve as a reminder to fans just how much work and effort goes into the games that players enjoy. It can often be difficult to understand how costly development is, and how little some people in the industry get paid to make the video games that people get so much entertainment out of.
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