Gearbox Software is in constant crisis. Within the last decade alone, the studio and CEO Randy Pitchford have been embroiled in controversy. Whether it was the panned Duke Nukem Forever, the unrepresentative gameplay demo of Aliens: Colonial Marines, or a messy lawsuit alleging a secret $12 million payout to Pitchford, the developer behind the beloved Borderlands franchise is inseparable from drama.
Borderlands 3 isn’t immune to Gearbox’s inner turmoil. Even though the hype for the game and its “guns with legs” is very real, PR has turned negative after behind-the-scenes grievances between Pitchford and former Claptrap voice actor David Eddings became public on Twitter. The alleged issues revolve around improper pay due to Eddings when voicing Claptrap and accusing Pitchford of physical assault.
The spat began after Eddings replied to a tweet inquiring if he was returning as the purposefully irritating and iconic character in Borderlands 3. Per the tweet: “No,” said Eddings. “For the first time, I insisted on getting paid for my performance, and all of a sudden they couldn’t afford me. Now I’m not telling them how to run their business but maybe next time they should put the $12 [million] payment from 2K in the Gearbox bank account instead. Just sayin’.”
Pitchford aired his side of the story publicly a few days later in a reply to a Twitter user discussing unionization. According to Pitchford, he didn’t swindle Edding into playing Claptrap. “There was no ‘force’ – he wanted it (and reveled in it),” Pitchford said. “The issue today is that Mr. Eddings is bitter and disgruntled about having been terminated. He was offered 2X scale [which] he refused. I don’t want him to do it unless he wants to do it, as motivation affects performance.”
Eddings then tweeted a lengthy response thread to Pitchford’s allegations. “I was fine moving on after Gearbox. But when my former boss starts mouthing off about various aspects of my employment including ‘how highly compensated’ I was and how ‘generous’ he is, I feel obligated to correct the record. I had a lot of mixed feelings when asked to reprise the role of Claptrap late last year and eventually realized I was willing to put differences aside and do something cool for Borderlands fans with my friends at Gearbox. I ultimately offered to [voice Claptrap] 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.”
This new debacle is unfortunately all too familiar territory for Gearbox. While Eddings’ accusations are unproven, Pitchford has burned up most, if not all, of his credibility. He has been dishonest with his employees and customers. Even beyond the Aliens Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem Forever fiascos, Pitchford was picking a fight with Game Informer on Twitter just last week over an accurate article on how Pitchford misled fans about microtransactions in Borderlands 3. Pitchford comes across like the game developer who cried wolf. Despite creating guns with legs, he might not have much to stand on himself.