GamesIndustry.biz was in attendance at the recent Nordic Game Conference, during which Gearbox Software's Randy Pitchford gave a keynote speech about the company's rise to "AAA success" with Borderlands and Borderlands 2, as well as where video games and their ballooning budgets are headed in the future. From their write-up:
Today, Gearbox has almost 200 employees and Pitchford's role has changed dramatically, but to hear him tell it he doesn't miss the the focus and intimacy of those early days at all. As the company has grown it has raised its game in every area, replacing intimacy with mastery in each of the major disciplines of game production.
"There's actually multiple benefits from scale," he says. "Specialisation is the main one: the more people you have the more you can afford for individuals to become specialised in a very specific thread. It allows a potential for mastery, but it also creates a dependency on mastering everything else, because no one thing alone will result in a cohesive product."
Pitchford believes that Borderlands 2 is Gearbox's most coherent game yet, and that it will likely be its most financially successful is testament to how astute the company's leaders have been in navigating the increasingly treacherous waters of the AAA industry. Gearbox is a finely balanced organisation, with enough staff to deal with multiple projects in tandem, removing the need for knee-jerk redundancies as production on a game slows down. This is common practice in the games industry, but Pitchford believes it ultimately undermines the quality of the finished product.
"We've found that people have even more value on the next thing they're going to do, because the more we work together the more we understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, and leverage the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses," he says. "There's a real advantage to committed talent having time together on multiple projects over time. We don't like to do the churn. We have very little turnover."