For over six years, casual fans and hardcore gamers have awaited “Borderlands 3” with bated breath. Though Gearbox Software has released spin-off content to ease the lengthy wait for a proper follow-up of “Borderlands 2,” the reveal of this continuation has been muddled by technical difficulties, leaks, and poor handling of the marketing for the game.
Other than short statements from Gearbox Software and a quick tech demo at the Game Developers Conference in 2017, audiences have received little information on “Borderlands 3” — that is, until March 12, when Gearbox teased on Twitter a possible “Borderlands 3” reveal at popular gaming convention PAX East (originally called Penny Arcade Expo) on March 28. In the days leading up to the reveal, Gearbox released a teaser trailer for the game, and game development appeared to be moving ahead smoothly.
Then the reveal event finally arrived. While gaming press conferences aren’t generally spectacular events (just look at Electronic Arts’ or Ubisoft’s Electronic Entertainment Expo conferences from the past year), the amount of technical difficulties, poorly planned and executed stage presentations and an odd inclusion of onstage card tricks at Gearbox’s PAX panel were undeniably cringeworthy and dampened the highly anticipated reveal.
The event ran much longer than necessary, largely due to lackluster announcements, including 4K resolution updates for “Borderlands 1,” “Borderlands 2” and “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel,” which delayed the conference’s main reveal.
However, what Gearbox ultimately delivered seems to bring everything that its community wanted. The trailer for “Borderlands 3” is visually striking, packed with flashy characters, monsters and maps, and filled to the brim with guns, explosions and mayhem. While one could get persnickety and say that a 4-minute gameplay trailer can’t accurately represent the quality of the final product, if “Borderlands 3” lives up to the ambitious scale that the trailer suggests, then it should be quite the experience.
On April 1, Gearbox tweeted teasing a Sept. 13 release date before promptly deleting the tweet, begging the question of whether the news was an April Fools’ joke. An official trailer released the following day confirmed the tweet. While the leak might further suggests Gearbox’s lack of organization, the release date reveal was a welcome announcement, as fans can prepare to dive into the game very soon. For context, the provided release window is even shorter than that of “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” — which released in December 2018 after a March 2018 reveal trailer — as well as those of most AAA games — many of which are revealed with ambiguous release dates, only to come out years later.
While “Borderlands 3” approaches quickly, it’s launch may come with a caveat for some. Once the pre-orders were made available, Gearbox confirmed another aspect of the April 1 tweet leak: “Borderlands 3” on PC would be an Epic Games Store (EGS) exclusive. While the announcement won’t affect series fans who are console gamers, it presents a frustrating shift to fans who use Steam on their PCs. Though “Borderlands 3” won’t cost any more to play through EGS (and access to the EGS client is free), the move from Steam — with its user-friendly interface and its history of distributing the “Borderlands” series — along with players having to use their new Epic Games accounts rather than their established Steam profiles, makes the decision irksome. While Gearbox might find the decision sound from a business perspective (since “Borderlands” uses Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, and EGS offers developers a preferable revenue split), the unnecessary neglect toward Steam’s user base, even if unintentional, only adds to Gearbox’s already troublesome and scattered image after their PAX event.
One can hope that these marketing issues will not extend to the actual development of the game. For all intents and purposes, the trailer seems a promising start to a game that offers players more mayhem on Pandora, billions of guns, fun 4-player cooperative gameplay and, most importantly, “guns with legs” (yes, you read that right). It’s just a shame, for a game with a massive title that looks like hours on hours of fun, that Gearbox’s poor delivery ended up drenching its own parade.