Borderlands 3 isn't happening... but is this really news?

According to CVG, Borderlands 3 isn’t in development. The developers at Gearbox would love to make a new Borderlands game, but studio head Randy Pitchford (speaking to Polygon) says: “We are not working on Borderlands 3.” He continues to add, “We know we want it and we know it should exist, but we don't know what it is yet”. Well alrighty, then. Where's the news here?

How you choose to look at this story is really up to you. On the one-hand, you could say that Pitchford has given Borderlands fans hope by saying that his team wants to work on a third game in the series. That’s marginally better than a flat-out denial that it’ll ever happen. On the other hand, you could say that precisely zero fresh information has come to light. Polygon asked Pitchford if Gearbox was working on Borderlands 3, and he said “No”. Intent doesn’t constitute a binding agreement, or a confirmation that something’s going to happen. On top of that, the computers of major developers like Gearbox are littered with concepts and sequels that never even got to the announcement stage.

There’s little doubting Pitchford’s enthusiasm and love for the Borderlands series. It’s arguably the most successful franchise the developer has made, and it was Gearbox itself that came up with the original concept. A third Borderlands makes sense from a commercial perspective, as the original and second sold enough to justify it. However, this is all speculation and common sense: there are no positive facts here; only a maintaining of the status quo. Borderlands 3 wasn't happening last week, it isn't happening this week.

An increasing trend among video games media is to assume knowledge of something before denying its existence, essentially leaving the reader in the exact same place they started. “X game denied by developer” is often heard after no--or at best, very circumstantial--rumours surface about that game’s existence. Often it’s little more than fulfilment mixed with sensible commercial speculation.

The reasons for covering games long before they actually exist are myriad. Sometimes it’s about writers being unable to break embargoes, sometimes it’s done for traffic, sometimes it’s done so the writer can turn around and say “I told you so” once the game is finally confirmed. There’s a lack of accountability with the constant churn of games news on the internet, so the vast majority of news stories--especially ones that deny the existence of a certain thing--are forgotten about within days.

It’s a common trend, and one that everyone has been guilty of at some point or other. Hell, it fills home-pages on a slow news day. However, it’s something I’d like to see left behind as our industry grows and matures. Video games have never been so diverse and wide-spread, giving writers a huge variety of topics to cover and research. Unless it’s part of a smart deconstruction of facts and rumours, the focus should never be on what isn’t happening. Because even on a slow news day, there is a hell of a lot of stuff going on.

So, yeah, Borderlands 3 isn’t in development. It might happen in the future, and when it does you’ll get all the facts and impressions on GamesRadar and most other video games sites. It's sensible to assume that--if it does exist, some day--it'll be on next-gen, as PS4 and Xbox One are both readily available. For now, though, be wary of taking strong denials as a sign that something is really happening, in secret. Sometimes it really isn't, and the game's existence is only in the mind of the writer.

Andy Hartup