Gearbox Royalty Follow-up

A recent tweet from Randy Pitchford references the recent report on Kotaku saying Gearbox employees were unhappy with royalty bonuses from Borderlands 3 being lower than what they were led to expect (thanks GameRant via Neutronbeam). That article says that those who work at Gearbox receive smaller base salaries than the industry standard in exchange for profit-sharing through such bonuses. Pitchford says: "I'm afraid you are mistaken. I'm so sorry you have been misled by lies propagated by those who profit from stimulating your outrage." He does not actually state what he thinks is inaccurate about the story, but another tweet he says: "Ah, link a tabloid click bait... How about a credible, verifiable source?" In this he cites a post on LinkedIn by Maxime Babin from a couple of weeks ago where the Game Director at Gearbox Studio Québec defends the Gearbox royalty program. Here's Maxime's take:
My name is Max Babin and I have been in this industry for over ten years, working for both small indie studios and big AAA companies. From my experience, there is no royalty system as transparent, mathematical and objective as the one that the Gearbox founders decided to implement. It is a system designed for people to reap the rewards of the entire studio’s success – independent from your position, project or how in favor you are with leadership. So, here’s what’s wrong with what has been recently reported:

  • Being transparent with numbers doesn’t make them a promise. Borderlands 3 is my first major project shipped with Gearbox. We all knew it was a killer project and were super excited to see how the fans would respond to it. There were company-wide meetings where various earning projections would be displayed. These projections were displayed as an act of transparency and never made into any promises. Be cool.
  • We already got royalties – and more are coming! We have not got stiffed by anyone. There was an expectation gap, but Borderlands 3 is profitable, and we already are seeing the result of it. Royalties are flowing already and more are coming. I have huge amount of respect for Randy that he had to face the disappointment of his friends and colleagues when he announced that the projections were too high. He could have pushed it off to someone else in the studio, but he didn’t. It was a display of trust and honesty; it sucks that someone would try to spin it into something it isn’t. It is particularly painful to have to discuss this at a time when millions of people outside the video game industry are struggling financially.
  • We all benefit from Gearbox’ success. A few months ago, Randy decided to give away 30% of his company to the employees because he believes that those who participate should get a piece of the returns. I’m honestly surprised that this isn’t what’s making the news right now – this is huge! In addition to this formula-based royalty system, we are now part owners of the company.

I understand that honesty and transparency can bring misunderstandings and misinterpretation, but theses values are core to Gearbox’s vision. If writing this and correcting those who try to spin or hide the truth is the price to pay to protect our values, well, I am happy to do it.

To conclude, I want to share my deepest appreciation for Gearbox and – more specifically to my team in Quebec City. You guys are extremely talented and a joy to work with. I’m proud of everything we already accomplished and excited to see how we can entertain the world together.