Borderlands 3's huge $140 million budget ate up employee bonuses

Borderlands 3 cost so much to make that Gearbox will only pay out a fraction of promised bonus checks to workers.

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Borderlands 3 went way over-budget and ate up the big bonus checks employees were promised years ago.

Borderlands 3's huge $140 million budget ate up employee bonuses 5646

A new expose from Kotaku's Jason Schreier gives a rare glimpse at the inner-workings of games industry deals, particularly Gearbox's internal employee pay policies. Gearbox isn't like other independent studios. Developers make lower wages but Gearbox offers a 60/40% royalty split to its employees. Workers get to take home 40% of royalties, and the rest goes to Gearbox. This incentivizes working hard to make games as profitable as possible; the more a game sells, the more royalty cash flows into worker's wallets.

The should've happened with Borderlands 3, a mega-hit that's sold over 8 million copies to date and stands as the best-selling Borderlands game of all time. But instead of paying out large bonus checks, Gearbox's Randy Pitchford told the workers their bonuses would be a lot smaller than expected. The royalty money is drying up fast.

Borderlands 3 simply cost too much to make (with DLC included, the game apparently cost nearly $140 million to develop). The biggest cost was changing the game's engine mid-development from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4. There's also a new studio that Gearbox had to pay for.

This was a huge disappointment for the developers who had spent weeks crunching and working long hours for the promise of a big payoff down the line. Pitchford reportedly responded by telling devs if they didn't like it, they could quit.

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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