Yesterday’s rollout of the first public gameplay footage for Borderlands 3 went about how you’d expect, with all the requisite guns, explosions, and colorful characters that have been standard for the series from the jump. But some confusingly worded comments about the game’s post-launch monetization have required a bit of clarification from Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford and others in the company.
During yesterday’s streamed presentation, Pitchford announced that “we’re gonna do some kickass campaign DLC, and I’m sure we’re going to do all kinds of fun customizations like heads and skins. But we’re not doing any of that free-to-play junk. There’s not going to be any microtransactions, there’s not going to be any of that nonsense.”
That specific wording led Game Informer to tweet out an article clarifying that the cosmetic items Pitchford mentioned (i.e. “fun customizations like heads and skins”) are indeed being sold via microtransactions (i.e. small payments). That means Pitchford’s statement that “there’s not going to be any microtransactions” isn’t technically accurate.
Game Informer’s tweet, in turn, led Pitchford down an emotional, 18-tweet rant about his words getting twisted out of context. “Our post-launch plans are in flux, but I made a commitment that Borderlands 3 would not pursue F2P style monetization,” Pitchford wrote in that thread. “There will be tons of cosmetic drops as (free) loot in Borderlands 3,” he said in a follow-up Wednesday evening. “Currently there are no plans for any cosmetic DLC, but I anticipate there will be customer demand post launch that we will be excited to meet just as we did with additional optional cosmetic DLC for BL2.”
Borderlands producer Chris Brock offered further clarification in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “When we say ‘no microtransactions,’ what we’re really trying to say is that we’re not trying to nickel and dime people,” he said. “We’ll probably make content after launch that we will sell, but we also don’t intend to take what Borderlands was and then chop it up into chunks and sell it.”
Creative Director Paul Sage further clarified to PC Gamer that skins, heads, and auxiliary equipment will be available for purchase, but there were no plans for so-called pay-to-win items or a games-as-a-service style of monetization.
That all seems clear enough, despite Pitchford’s perhaps overenthusiastic wording. But where things get a little more iffy is in the game’s special editions. An $80 Deluxe Edition, $100 Super Deluxe version, and $250 ‘Diamond Loot Chest Collector’s Edition” all contain “Equippable XP & Loot Drop Boost Mods,” according to marketing materials.
By paying a bit more over the $60 base game, in other words, you get an advantage that helps you win the game. This isn’t that uncommon in modern game launch marketing—games like Evolve were doing it years ago. But it does sound a bit like a one-time example of the kind of “pay-to-win” mechanics Pitchford was rejecting.
A 2K spokesperson tried to clarify that messaging in an interview with PC Gamer last month. “While Borderlands 3 is not a competitive game, where boosts could lead to direct player advantages and be considered a competitive concern, we still take balance of the progression and loot systems in the game very seriously,” the spokesperson said.
“We are still fine-tuning these systems in Borderlands 3, and the benefits the boosts in the Deluxe, Super Deluxe and Collector’s Edition will provide, but at this stage we can confirm that the Loot and XP boosts will both be level capped and tied to specific pieces of gear, similar to boosts in past Borderlands games,” he continued. “The intent is to give those players an initial boost, but not something that permeates the entire Borderlands 3 experience indefinitely.”
Gearbox’s SHiFT code system of old will return, as well, which allows players to hunt for and redeem free codes (found in and out of the game) in exchange for in-game loot. In BL3‘s case, that system will tie into average Twitch stream watching—so if you watch someone redeem killer loot, you may get an automatic SHiFT bonus in your BL3 account as a viewer.
Long story short, it sounds like Gearbox is committed to avoiding the worst excesses of randomized loot box purchases and free-to-play-style, skip-the-grind treadmill monetization. But despite some confusing statements, that doesn’t mean that cosmetic microtransactions and paid boosts are completely absent from the game.