Borderlands developer discusses sequel-craving videogame climate

“There are a lot of sequels out there, and it’s hard for the original stuff, the stuff that’s taking risks, to break through all that,” said Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford in an interview with The developer’s recently retooled Borderlands, a Mad Max-inspired sci-fi shooter, will be released later this month, and though Pitchford stands behind the title’s last-minute artistic overhaul, he’s understandably nervous to unveil an original IP given the industry’s current climate. “The Machine really tends to prefer the sequels. Our industry clamours for originality but The Machine works against that, so we’re taking some big risks.”

“Innovation is curbed, it’s already happening. It’s been happening for the past five years or so, as the industry exploded. It’s definite fact,” he added, pointing to Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge as examples of titles that took risks but received only nominal reward, an outcome he fears will lead publishers to fall back on the sequel safety net more than ever.

“I don’t want to bash anybody, but there are some where you’re [thinking] ‘really? Are we really doing this? Can’t we do something new here?’…If Borderlands works out, people will look at that. The more guys who take risks and do interesting stuff that works out, it makes it easier [to be innovative],” he said. “At the end of the day, what we do is very hard and it’s also very expensive. It’s not free to do what we do, and the folks that fit the bill for this stuff , they’ve got to believe that they’re going to make more than they spend. If they don’t believe that, they’re not going to do it.”