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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel may not need next-gen, but next-gen needs it

Gearbox's next game is Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a first-person shooter set on the moon of Pandora and nestled between the events of the first and second game. But despite coming out in the second half of 2014--a year or so after the launch of next-gen consoles--it's to remain an exclusively last-gen affair. According to Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, next-gen simply hasn't reached a point where there are enough consoles out there to justify it. And while he's technically correct, that doesn't mean keeping the Pre-Sequel off next-gen is actually the right call.

During the reveal event for the Pre-Sequel, he explained that "there are fewer Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s than we sold copies of Borderlands 2. I imagine over time--you know, maybe by the time we get to third or fourth Christmas--there will be enough of an install base."

Pitchford isn't wrong. From a business sense, he's likely making the right short-term decision for Gearbox and 2K: creating the product that'll bring the largest return. The audience for Borderlands exists on last-gen, and a Borderlands game exclusively on next-gen systems wouldn't do as well as one that lands on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. That's all true.

But it's also a move that could hurt the industry more than it could help Gearbox. Next-gen's success hinges largely on people wanting to buy next-gen games. If developers make awesome stuff that you can only play on the Xbox One and PS4, people will buy the Xbox One and PS4; and if developers continue to make games for the Xbox 360 and PS3, gamers will just continue to play them on the hardware they already own.

Getting people to fork down $400-500 on a new piece of hardware is already a tough sell, and it's all the harder when it doesn't do anything that your current system can't. But if every developer waits for every other developer to carry next-gen hardware to success, there's a chance that day may never come.

Take the 3DS, for example. After its shaky launch left far too few systems in far too few hands, several games were pushed back in hopes that they'd be released when the hardware was more successful--including both Crush 3D and Shinobi. This lack of content hurt the hardware even more, forcing Nintendo to slash the price in a last-ditch effort to save the handheld. It worked out in the end, but I'm not sure that's a game of chicken worth repeating.

Pitchford's also ignoring games like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty: Ghosts, both of which succeeded in providing strong next-gen experiences while still releasing last-gen versions. If Gearbox is making a PC version, and it's going to take advantage of the powerful PC hardware, it's already making a game that will outpace the power of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Why not release that version on next-gen consoles? Sure, it might not look as good as it could if it was next-gen only, and it's not as cheap as developing it as a final last last-gen hurrah, but it would at least contribute to the success of next-gen. And that's the kind of success that's needed for the health of the industry as a whole.

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12 comments

  • kingcabo - July 21, 2014 10:33 a.m.

    I didn't technically buy the first two Borderlands. They were free downloads from PS+ membership, so I guess I will not be buying the third installment. I enjoyed these games immensely. It is a shame. I would have definitely bought for the PS4.
  • jay-matz - June 27, 2014 2:59 p.m.

    I would just like to point out that this is the definition of a conundrum. Nobody is buying next gen consoles because the best games that have come out since the release of the next gen consoles have been solely for previous gen consoles, and then developers are using the poor next gen sales as an excuse not to develop games for the next gen consoles. The xbox one and ps4 are going to die if developers don't start making games for next gen consoles, PERIOD. They need to accept this and realize that, initially, game sales may not be great, but a game like this one coming out for next gen may be the push a lot of people need to buy a new system, and new games to go with it.
  • ObliqueZombie - April 11, 2014 9:32 a.m.

    I don't want Borderlands on my PS4, thanks dough.
  • StrayGator - April 10, 2014 7:09 p.m.

    new, unproven developer recruited to make a stopgap last-hen entry in an established franchise. so basically it's Arkham Origins. yes, i noticed that i typed "last-hen". left it for teh funniez.
  • hester2 - April 10, 2014 4:44 a.m.

    The one issue I have with this is the same one I have with the complaints about lack of third-party support for the Wii U. Third-party devs/pubs don't owe anything to next-gen consoles. Their sole job is to make good games that will entice gamers and make a profit. It's up to Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo to market their systems to both consumers and developers and illustrate why they're worth taking that leap.
  • winner2 - April 10, 2014 5:23 a.m.

    Agreed. I don't like people jumping devs' cases because they think the dev is practically obligated to save the next gen.
  • Shnubby - April 10, 2014 4:29 a.m.

    They'll bring it out for 360 and PS3, then a year or 2 later they'll release the ULTIMATE edition that has slightly better graphics and a 10% discount coupon for a DLC pack.
  • protexblue - April 10, 2014 1:55 a.m.

    The Gearbox guys should get at least some credit for porting BL2 on Vita - talk about a high risk with a low install base!
  • Shigeruken - April 10, 2014 4:02 a.m.

    Sony is paying for the port, and it's being developed by Iron Galaxies. It's not really high risk for either party because Gearbox isn't monetarily invested in the project, and Sony is after Vita sales not game sales. Sony will be counting any spike in Vita sales as a win at this point.
  • BladedFalcon - April 9, 2014 10:06 p.m.

    ...This is Gearbox we're talking about, of course they are gonna want to make as much money by putting as little effort as possible. Making next gen ports may be too much trouble for them, and it's obvious this is a game they are making using the assets of BL2 to capitalize on it's success for one last time, seeing as BL is the one franchise Gearbox has a current good reputatiion with.
  • GOD - April 9, 2014 9:41 p.m.

    Not enough users have a console to justify making this game for it because not enough games are on this console to justify me buying it..... Your move games industry.
  • greaterdivinity - April 9, 2014 5:17 p.m.

    Can we please stop saying next-gen? I mean, it's been here for over half a year now, it's current gen. So this game is last gen. We can say next-gen again when the next batch of consoles is announced. As for current gen needing it, the current generation needs pretty much anything. Indies are doing their best to fill out the meager current-gen exclusives (as in not cross-gen) games, and they can only do so much (even if there are some fantastic ones). For cereal though, I know this isn't purely Gearbox working on it (2k Australia is working on it too), but Gearbox is seeming like they're a one franchise studio as of late. In the past half decade+ they really haven't released anything of note other than Borderlands/Borderlands 2, as Aliens: Colonial Marines was a disaster of epic proportions.

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