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Randy Pitchford launched the gearbox in 1999 and since then, more than 100 million copies of company games like the Borderland series have been sold. And Pitchford believes that sports as a hobby promotes sports as a service, and he warns against having anything other than the interest of the gamer.
In a fireside chat with me at our second annual GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming Summit, Pitchford said to focus on making things more fun than anything else.
“I believe a huge component is the basic philosophy through which my and the talented gearbox team reach out to what we do,” Pitchford said. “We think of our sports as potential hobbies, places where you want people to spend time and enjoy the time they spend there. Obviously this is a business because it takes resources to create something with teams. But it’s always our ambition to make the audience feel like they have a better end to the deal. “
He added, “We want the relationship between us and those who play our games to be the kind of relationship that entertainers have with their audience, as opposed to a relationship with a tobacco company addict. And we’ve seen business models in this industry [where] There may be some addictive qualities to interact with a very powerful medium. But we always approach things from the customer’s point of view. And because we are customers. I literally spent my entire vacation just playing video games. “
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Pitchford said the team talked in early 1999 about how sports in the gearbox should be a hobby. It was interesting to see the phrase about making games as a service to the game industry in the 2000s, where online gaming could be constantly updated and monetized almost permanently, long after its launch.
“For me, that label betrayed the basic approach. Games as a kind of service motivate people to lock in some kind of repetitive monetization scheme. It is basically business based. It’s a suit-based mindset, “he said. ,[With games as a hobby]You can feel the orientation, right? It’s about hoping to get something more than just an engagement service. It creates joy and happiness and wonder and joy and happiness that over time its growth or mastery, or familiarity or comfort, or the emotional things we experience when we experience stories, and spend time with characters who It really tells us something about ourselves. “
The heart of the entertainer
Pitchford said he has the heart of an entertainer because he was a magician before he was a game developer. He paid his way through college, performing in Magic Castle and Hollywood bars and nightclubs and restaurants and private gigs.
“From that era, I learned everything I knew about entertainment. In my life. I’ve obviously picked up a lot of things since then. But the foundation was laid there, “he said.
Last year, the company formed by Pitchford was acquired by the Embrace Group for 1.2 billion. It’s been almost a year, and Pitchford says everything is fine. He noted that Embracer Group is a decentralized model holding company that empowers entrepreneurs and value creators with access to capital and the ability to participate in publicly traded markets without facing any complications.
“Our mission is to entertain the world, to create joy and happiness,” he said. “So Embracer is an excellent partner. We are fully autonomous but have the opportunity to interact with other members of the Embracer Group and create an unforced synergy where we all feel appropriate. “
In the past, Pitchford has said that “traditional Blueblood publishers” have always “kept an eye on the gearbox and they’ve judged us by the work we’ve done in the past, rather than imagining us as a creative engine.”
Pitchford therefore felt that the company’s intellectual property and potential had been underestimated, as it relied on publishers to reach the market and finance its games and get it on the right platform.
Publishes its own content
But now Gearbox is a publisher.
“We’ve discovered and proven that we can scale our creative engines,” he said. “We built the studio from scratch.”
He said the company’s values, principles, practices can be translated into new locations, regions, countries and sub-studios. The limiting factor in the past was access to capital, and now the company has it.
Asked how the company gets loyal followers (such as Borderland cosplayers) who follow long after the game launches, Pitchford said, Is surprising. And when you do a Google image search for Borderland cosplay, you are dealing with extraordinary content. It is very clear that enthusiasts have spent a huge amount of their time and resources trying to bring these ideas into the real world. And then, if you want to go down a deep, dark rabbit hole, you can Google ‘Borderlands Tattoo’. When I was writing the Borderlands logo using a whiteboard marker for doodle possibilities, I had no idea that people would tattoo this thing on their body forever. “
He said there is no formula. And he thought of sports as a hobby.
“We’re not always perfect at it, but we try to make sure we like to get into real shit,” he said.
I asked Pitchford why Borderlands 3 was so successful. Got a leg up from the Epic Games Store by giving it away for free as a starter, but it succeeded beyond that.
“It was awful to live up to this thing that we created,” he said.
He noted how the company created Half-Life: the opposition to Valve’s Half-Life franchise and it was scary to follow on a huge hit. There was only a team of 10 people in the gearbox at the time of the pitch. When it came out, it received a nomination for the top award with the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. And he won. He said the feeling of taking risks and walking on high wire without mesh is so scary.
“As an entertainer, we have no choice,” he said. “We have to get on the horse again and find it again. ,
The company had a difficult time with an online game like Battlebourne like Overwatch. It came out before the overwatch, and it managed to reach three million players. But they weren’t sticking with it, and they were playing overwatch instead. That was a tough result. There was a similar feeling of anxiety before the launch of Borderland, which did not have high confidence among publishers.
But Borderlands took care of the players and it has reached new heights.
“Before Borderlands, there were no health bandages on the enemy’s head. There were no statistics on weapons. The first-person action game had no growth and leveling of the player’s characters, “he said.” It was a game from moment to moment. We leveled and searched for loot. How much or how much success has been due to the game loop. “
Games as movies
When Teltel launched the non-combat version of Borderlands with its Tales from Borderlands narrative game, it was all about one story. And when it came out and was successful, Pitchford realized it could be a valuable transmedia franchise. Until then, he was never convinced that it was the gameplay that made Borderlands so popular.
“They have created an interactive fiction game in the Borderland universe with our characters and our themes and our story and our direction and our style. And it was extremely successful as the highest rated game in all of Teltel [history]”And it’s a great game, and there’s no shooting, and there’s no looting, and there’s no leveling, and there’s nothing that was exciting and addictive about Borderlands game design. It’s just a character,” said Pitchford. Storytelling and interactive fiction. And it worked. And it gave me a lot of confidence in the belief that this medium and our mission is worth it. “
And so now Gearbox Entertainment is greenlighting movies based on gearbox properties, including a movie based on Borderland.
“Entertainment can take many forms. And as engaging as it is attractive, it asks the audience something, “he said.” Those audiences have to move their fingers and make decisions. And there are some people who really just like movies or television, or maybe they like literature, And we want to entertain them too, and we know we’ve reached out to people who’ve spent thousands of hours at the border.
He added, “We would love to share the universe with friends and family who don’t even play video games. And I think the Borderland Motion Picture would be a great tool for that. And so the universe is expanding in line with those theses about sports as a hobby. And it’s not just games. It is entertainment as a hobby. It’s the universes and the stories and the characters and the gameplay, where it makes sense. Everyone can be a part of this hobby. “
Pitchford said he was working as an executive producer in Budapest shooting most of the movie in 2021. I think it’s time that transmedia means that games can be turned into movies, in other ways instead. And that’s the next step, Pitchford said.
“The next step – and that’s something I’m working hard on – can you see the evidence of this with our Dark Horse acquisition and the Embrace Group. And what do we do with Asmodee? Why Entertainment needs to start in one area and then move on to another ?, “said Pitchford.” If the world’s best tabletop game makers, the world’s best graphic novelists, the world’s best filmmakers, the world’s best interactive video game makers – What would happen if we were to build intellectual property together? “
He said that the creative process can be the creation of all the entertainment together for different mediums.
“This kind of integrated entertainment, planning and design and creative process, it will be necessary to integrate the creative process into these different mediums,” he said. “We are going to live the dream of Metawors. We are going to make all the mistakes and hopefully we will learn some things and others will learn. And together we can have a really wonderful new IP. I think the IP universe of the future universe does not even exist today. And we’re going to make it, and I hope it’s important for those who are watching this to wait. “
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