Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford should be celebrating. Borderlands 3 was recently announced to big excitement from fans and media. Instead, the CEO has been embroiled in an ongoing social media scandal against multiple parties. And there have even been allegations of physical assault coming out against Pitchford.
Yet Randy Pitchford has been known for controversy, and seems to find himself personally in the news cycle whenever Gearbox launches a new game. While CEOs are often shrouded in mystery, Pitchford's latest social media outburst is just the latest in a list of personal drama that has followed the CEO over the years.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is FUBAR
In 2013, Gearbox released Aliens: Colonial Marines, a video game spinoff to the Aliens film by James Cameron. Hype for Colonial Marines during the PR cycle was high, especially after the successful release of Borderlands 2. However, the finished product ended up being famously buggy, and barely resembled the pre-release footage for Colonial Marines.
It was reported that Gearbox may have moved developers and resources away from Colonial Marines and into Borderlands and Duke Nukem Forever, leading to the studio outsourcing a bulk of the development to other game developers. Sega admitted that other studios helped on Colonial Marines, but denied that Colonial Marines was developed by any other studio than Gearbox.
Angry fans got together to try and sue Sega and Gearbox in a class-action lawsuit over misleading advertising. But Gearbox was able to get itself out of the suit by claiming that as a developer it had no control over the marketing for Colonial Marines. Gearbox ended up getting out of the lawsuit, which lost class action status, but fans to this day have not gotten over the poor finished product that was Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Lawsuit over $12 million
Pitchford's personal life also spilled into the public. In 2018 it was reported that Pitchford's personal assistant stole somewhere around $3 million from him and his wife. While that was a personal matter, earlier this year Pitchford found himself in another public scandal involving millions, when Pitchford and the former general counsel of Gearbox entered a legal battle against one another. Former Gearbox lawyer Wade Callender alleged that Pitchford received a secret $12 million bonus from Take-Two Interactive as an advance for Borderlands profits.
Callender's lawsuit was made to counter a separate lawsuit by Gearbox against the former counsel for allegedly borrowing money from Gearbox towards a home loan and tuition. The messy details from the lawsuit also included supposed pornography that was found on Pitchford's USB drive that he lost at a Medieval Times restaurant.
No Microtransactions, Wait...
Since the gameplay reveal of Borderlands 3 last week, Pitchford has been on Twitter, seemingly picking fights. The biggest dust-up happened when Game Informer wrote that Borderlands 3 will have microtransactions despite Pitchford saying otherwise. On stage during the Borderlands 3 preview event Pitchford had said that Borderlands 3 would not have "free-to-play" style "nickel-and-dime" mechanics. He was referring to pay-to-win style mechanics, but not necessarily cosmetic microtransactions.
However, microtransactions are still microtransactions. So when it was revealed that Borderlands would have cosmetic microtransactions, Game Informer reported as such. Borderlands 3 publisher 2K Games also later confirmed this to be the case.
That wasn't before Pitchford picked a fight with the publication asking why they chose a "shitty clickbait headline." Pitchford followed up with several more tweets, some filled with expletives. These tweets were just the beginning for what feels like a long week of Pitchford's fights on social media following the reveal of Borderlands 3.
Voice Actor Problems: Troy Baker and Claptrap
The most recent social media drama revolves around voice actors in Borderlands 3. Pitchford already had one awkward social media encounter with a former Borderlands voice actor, Troy Baker. Baker, who voiced Rhys in Tales From the Borderlands, said he wished he was asked to return for the role in Borderlands 3. Pitchford claimed Baker turned down the opportunity, but according to the actor, this wasn't the case.
You’ll have to ask Troy. I was told by the audio director that he turned it down. Fortunately, with how Rhys appears in the game, I don’t think it actually matters at all. You’ll see for yourself when the game comes out and you may disagree with me on that or not.— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) April 10, 2019
But Pitchford's social media fights with voice actors didn't hit critical mass until former Gearbox VP of business development and Claptrap voice actor David Eddings revealed that he would not be returning to voice the mascot character over a pay dispute.
Eddings formerly worked at Gearbox as an executive and happened to also voice the character of Claptrap in the Borderlands series. Gearbox employees sometimes can voice characters in their games, but aren't required to and are also not compensated beyond their existing salary for the voice work.
Eddings revealed that for the "first time" he asked to be compensated for his work, but that seemingly didn't happen. Pitchford responded that Gearbox offered Eddings, who now works at Rooster Teeth, twice the normal rate for voice actors. He also called Eddings "bitter and disgruntle" over his departure from Gearbox.
This led the developer to reveal that not only did he offer to voice Claptrap in Borderlands 3 for royalties, but also that Pitchford physically assaulted him at the Marriott Marquis hotel in San Francisco, California during GDC 2017.
I ultimately offered to do it for “free” in exchange for past royalties owed plus an apology for something I’ve never spoken about publicly until now: Randy physically assaulted me in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis at GDC 2017.— David Eddings (@davideddings) May 7, 2019
In a statement, Gearbox Software announced, "Gearbox takes any and all claims of this nature very seriously and we will abstain from commenting on the allegations Dave is making because it is a personal matter. We appreciate David's contributions to the Borderlands franchise and have continued to assert that we would welcome him back into the mix as the voice of Claptrap and other future opportunities."
Pitchford's combative social media presence may have officially gone too far in this case. Which is surprising, considering Pitchford's long history of finding himself personally in the games media news cycle.