Gearbox’s Battleborn and Blizzard’s Overwatch, both hero shooters that appear similar on the surface, came out around the same time last year. While Battleborn underperformed, Overwatch became a big hit. Now, Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford has weighed in to assure fans that the studio is “fine” after Battleborn came out. He told Glixel that he could not share specifics about Battleborn’s performance as it relates to sales, but he said, “We’re OK. I’m not freaking out. We’re fine.”
Also in the interview, Pitchford talked about competing with Overwatch, saying he was “absolutely” afraid when he found out that Blizzard was making their game. “Because you notice really quickly that, holy crap, the launch dates are going to step on top of each other,” he said. “I remember when Blizzard announced Overwatch, we were already committed. We were announced. We had our date. We were running for it.”
Pitchford added that he spoke with management at Take-Two and discussed the reality of the position that Battleborn was in and how it wasn’t ideal.
He says he said to Take-Two, “‘You know, Activision’s going to outspend us every day of the week. They’re just going to brute force it. We can’t overcome that. There’s nothing we can do to beat the brute force part of the fight.’ So we took the attitude of, ‘Look, it’s not a fight, man. Let’s just focus on our goals and make the game that’s fun and the game we want to make and trust it’ll work.””
Pitchford said Gearbox had no other options at that point.
“The only thing that I think kind of hurts is that it’s impossible to avoid the comparison,” he said about Overwatch. “People that have spent a lot of time with both games might argue how different they actually are, but from a surface level, they look like they’re really going after the same angle, and in many respects they are. There’s just no avoiding that.”
Also in the interview, Pitchford talked about how Gearbox believed its idea for Battleborn “felt as revolutionary to us as when we thought about how role-playing games and shooters aren’t mutually exclusive and could be blended together.” The studio wanted to create a new genre, the hero shooter, with an online infrastructure and technology to support it. Blizzard was doing something similar with Overwatch.
“Meanwhile, Blizzard, holy sh**. Those guys really proved it, right? They’re on a plane that we all aspire to,” Pitchford said. “Frankly, I think what helped them is they were a little more disciplined than we were, so they had a more narrow focus. They really just kind of honed in on the kind of iteration of [Team Fortress 2] and that allowed their polish and quality to just go through the roof. Whereas we were tackling so many different fronts, with campaign play and competitive play, and really inventing a lot there.”
The full Glixel interview is incredibly fascinating and in-depth; read it here.
In February 2016, Pitchford said Battleborn represented Gearbox’s biggest investment in its history. At the time, he also said he wasn’t sure it was going to find an audience. “We don’t even know if people will be interested or not,” he said.
Although Battleborn did not meet sales expectations, Gearbox has promised to support the game with DLC and updates–and so far, it’s delivered in a big way. New story missions and extra characters have attempted to keep the game fresh for those still playing.
As for Overwatch, the game’s Year of the Rooster event is going on right now–get all the details here.