Borderlands 3 is, in a vaccuum, going to be a great game. Screen Rant's hands-on with Borderlands 3 all but confirmed that, with the demo version possessing the kind of fluidity and polish one expects from a major AAA release that's living up to the hype. That, coupled with the fact that it's already a beloved property with hardcore fans and lore that consumers want to see explained, makes it all but a lock to be one of the biggest releases of 2019.
Unfortunately, that positivity has been squandered mercilessly and relentlessly by Gearbox Software and head boss Randy Pitchford. Everywhere fans look, there's another controversy involving Borderlands 3. First, it was confirmed that veteran voice actor Troy Baker won't be returning to the game to voice Rhys, with Baker asserting he was never contacted about the role while Pitchford alleged that Baker turned it down. Then, another voice actor in David Eddings revealed he wouldn't be voicing Claptrap, one of the most iconic characters in the series, for the first time ever. Pitchford took umbrage with this as well, suggesting Eddings wanted too much—Eddings responded by stating he just wanted to be paid at all, and then also accused Pitchford of physically assaulting him.
Now, Polygon reports that Gearbox Studios is doubling-down on retaining the services of Chris Hardwick as a voice actor in Borderlands 3, despite the actor's ongoing allegations regarding him sexually and emotionally abusing his ex-girlfriend. In what's beginning to look like a recurring theme, it appears that Gearbox Software and Randy Pitchford are unconcerned with problematic accusations and the support of public figures who are engaged in those allegations. Despite the excitement surrounding Borderlands 3 as a game, nearly every decision being made outside of it is making it look worse.
While physical and sexual assault allegations are certainly the worst of the issues surrounding Borderlands 3, they're not the only negative influences, either. Pitchford was recently spotted creating social media buzz for insisting Borderlands 3 microtransactions weren't that at all, despite the fact that they are by nearly every definition of the word—except whichever one Pitchford was using, apparently. That fight also exploded into Pitchford lashing out at Game Informer for accurately covering what he had stated in a press conference, insisting that they were spinning his intended use of the phrase. This is the same Randy Pitchford embroiled in an embezzling lawsuit, too, lest we forget the event that kick-started the long-time industry veteran's spiral into a questionable public perception.
For a game that is inevitably going to be one of the stars of 2019, it's disappointing that so much of what could be smart, savvy business decisions that strengthen its standing in the community is being wasted. There have been a lot of chances for Gearbox Studios to step up and make a meaningful statement about its business practices—whether that's responsibly addressing the Baker situation, having a meaningful discussion about Eddings' accusations, or refusing to include Hardwick in the game—and each time, the studio, and by extension the game, disappoints. Even usually warm and respectable gestures like the one that saw the studio let a cancer patient name one of the game's guns feel more like damage control than anything else at this point, even though the intention is likely in the right place.
Many fans are left wondering just how far they can be pushed by Gearbox's questionable decisions before Borderlands 3 isn't even on their wishlist anymore, and the fact that people are beginning to think about that is a strong indicator the developer desperately needs to rethink its public perception, and fast.