It sure has been some several hectic months for Gearbox Software, hasn't it? Fans threatened to boycott Borderlands 3 after it was revealed that it would be an Epic Games Store timed exclusive on PC, and the latest controversy now sees fans threatening to boycott because 2K allegedly sent private investigators to the house of YouTuber SupMatto for "breaking our policies, leaking confidential information about our product, and infringing our copyrights," according to a statement provided to The Verge. But this isn't the first time Gearbox has found itself embroiled in controversy.
Back in January, a lawsuit was brought to light that claimed Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford effectively stole $12 million from Gearbox that he then allegedly pocketed for himself. The lawsuit, filed by Wade Callender, former general counsel and vice president of legal affairs at Gearbox, was detailed in court documents.
It was Randy Pitchford himself who breached his fiduciary duties by exploiting Gearbox employees and property to fund Pitchford's private cravings. "For example, while Randy was denying employee raises predicated on low cash reserves, Randy secretly saddled Gearbox's employees with the burden of repaying a private, personal $12M 'bonus' that Randy Pitchford rerouted from Gearbox's publisher directly to Randy's side entity, 'Pitchford Entertainment Media & Magic.' Unbeknownst to Gearbox employees, Randy Pitchford arranged to shift the burden of Randy's long-standing, multi-million dollar 'bonus' to the very same employees from whom he hid the arrangement.
This is the same lawsuit that claimed Pitchford had "underage pornography" on a personal USB drive, and Callender alleged that Pitchford would hold parties where "adult men have reportedly exposed themselves to minors, to the amusement of Randy Pitchford." Both of these allegations were vehemently denied by Pitchford, who also attempted to clarify the USB situation by saying that he enjoyed camgirl pornography and had saved a video of a woman masturbating.
Despite his denials and nothing to prove these allegations, they mired Borderlands 3's announcement and have hung over the company as a cloud ever since. It didn't help when people took notice that fan-favorite character Claptrap had a new voice in Borderlands 3, and his previous actor then accused Pitchford of assault and not compensating him enough for his work.
David Eddings, who had voiced Claptrap up until Borderlands 3, said that he was forced out after insisting on getting paid what he believed he should have earned from royalties considering the series' success. Pitchford once again denied the accusations that he stiffed Eddings on payment, calling him "bitter and disgruntled," and said that he did offer a larger amount of money to Eddings, though Eddings denies that this offer took place. Eddings went on to that he was "rage fired" after an alleged assault that took place where Pitchford "shoved the fuck out of [him]."
Gearbox co-founder Landon Montgomery corroborated this accusation, telling Newsweek that "David leaned up to whisper something to Randy and out of the blue, Randy shoves him, hard."
This wouldn't be the last time that a voice actor accused Gearbox of wrongdoing. Troy Baker, who had voiced Rhys in Tales from the Borderlands, notably stated how disappointed he was in not being able to return to voice the character in Borderlands 3. Apparently he was more than happy to come back and do it, but Gearbox had turned him down. Pitchford's version of events differ. Pitchford says that he was told by the audio director that Baker had in fact turned down the offer to return. It's unclear which party is telling the truth, or if it was just a misunderstanding.
But most of this all happened within the past several months. Gearbox has found itself in hot water years prior because of another game, Alien: Colonial Marines. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Gearbox in 2013 over claims of false advertising. The fallout was that publisher Sega agreed to pay out $1.25 million in a settlement. Gearbox argued it had a right to pull out of the lawsuit because it had little to do with the marketing and advertising of Alien: Colonial Marines, though Sega brand manager Matt Eyre accused Pitchford of "doing whatever the fuck he likes," as the company argued that Gearbox was heavily involved in its marketing. Gearbox was finally dropped from the suit in 2015 after it lost its class status.
And this whole winding road leads us to today. #BoycottBorderlands 3 was trending much of this morning on Twitter because YouTuber SupMatto had claimed that 2K had sent private investigators to his house inquiring about his YouTube channel, where he covered Borderlands 3 leaks. Though 2K did not comment on the claim that private investigators were sent, it appears that this is part of a larger 10-month investigation by 2K over Borderlands 3 leaks. SupMatto insists that all of his leaks could be found from publicly available materials, but 2K denies that this is the case, and in a statement to IGN, a 2K representative said, "The information he's sharing about the situation is incomplete, and in some cases untrue. Not only were many of his actions illegal, but they were negatively impacting the experience of other content creators and our fans in anticipation for the game."
So where does that leave us? People excited for Borderlands 3, who have been waiting years for it, but who don't want to support this type of behavior from CEOs or companies. I can't tell you how to spend your money, and it's a tough position to be in when you want to support the hundreds of hard working developers who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into a game. The CEO and executives may be assholes, but what about the regular employees who want to be proud of their work without this marring it? Take-Two Interactive, the owner of 2K, isn't hurting for money. It has Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, 2K Sports, and BioShock under its belt.
Who really gets hurt from your "boycott"?
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