We have seen the Borderlands 3 trailer and it is good. The hour-long stage show that Gearbox propped up around it was not. If you watched the event live, you know exactly what I'm talking about: technical difficulties, stretching for time on top of stretching for time, legitimate audience boos, and the longest magic trick in the history of video game presentations. If you haven't seen the show yet, do yourself a favor and just read through our Borderlands 3 coverage - or if you insist, warm up your cringing muscles and scroll on.
Fifteen minutes of publishing announcements
Man oh man, we did not need to see every one of Gearbox Publishing's current and upcoming projects in an overlong Powerpoint presentation with occasional trailer breaks - especially when Pitchford had just finished teasing the hell out of the looming Borderlands 3 reveal. All of these announcements would have made a killer two-minute sizzle reel... but you probably can't reserve a PAX stage for less than an hour so they had to fill that non-Borderlands time somehow. No shade to Gearbox Publishing, they seem to be doing good work. It just wasn't great television, y'know?
Randy Pitchford trying to explain a tabletop game card-by-card
Getting into a new tabletop game is always the hard part. You figure you'll just skim the rulebook, put all the pieces in the right places, and learn as you play, right? But inevitably, you wind up spending two hours scouring every last scrap of instructions just trying to figure out how to start a round. It can feel frustratingly inefficient, but tabletop fans can now take solace in the fact that there is absolutely a worse way to learn a game: listening to Pitchford attempt to explain it by reading off random card names and descriptions verbatim without even explaining the goal of the damn game. Something about Claptrap parts?
Randy Pitchford doing one magic trick for 13 minutes
Thirteen minutes passed from the time Pitchford started setting up his magic trick to the time of the big finish. I counted. For reference, the Gearbox stage show spent about 12 minutes actually showing us Borderlands 3, even counting several false starts (which, don't worry, will also be addressed in their own entry). Pitchford is an IRL stage magician on top of being Gearbox's head honcho, so I would have been disappointed if he didn't sneak some magic into his company's big stage show. He also worked the aforementioned rules demo into that time period. But unless there's gonna be tigers or pyrotechnics or something, 13 minutes is a bit much.
Randy Pitchford stretching for time
"Hey, sorry for the technical difficulties," Randy Pitchford said, running out after the new Borderlands: Game of the Year trailer died a shuddering death live on stage. There were then 15 more minutes of more technical difficulties. The first time something went wrong I wondered if cheeky old Gearbox was satirizing video game stage show mishaps and poking fun at all the hype. Then Pitchford brought all the developers back out to ask them what their favorite part of the game was. I knew his struggle was real when I recognized that question; it's the same one I ask game developers when I'm panicking and have no idea what to talk about next.
The Borderlands 3 trailer being choppy the first time and then also the second
Gearbox's entire show was fraught with technical difficulties, so by the time the Borderlands 3 trailer was finally spooling up - approximately 10,000 years after the show began - viewers were understandably worried it would be borked. It was. It played at approximately 14 FPS - which, by and large, doesn't make for the strongest world premier. So, they decided to run the trailer again in the hopes of hitting a watchable frame rate. Alas, take two went just as poorly - I'd estimate around 17 FPS. They did cut it short the second time around so they could actually sort out the technical difficulties, but not before the Windows Media Player interface popped up on the long-awaited reveal of Borderlands 3, prompting one audience member to shout "Just use VLC!" If your audience is recommending substitute media players, something has gone wrong.
Randy Pitchford blaming the PAX equipment
Sometimes presenters will try to get boos out of a crowd on purpose, like when Randy Pitchford joked about making a Borderlands battle royale game. Those are fun boos. What Pitchford got when the Borderlands 3 trailer kept breaking and he joked that his team "should have brought our own equipment" were not fun boos. You know it's bad when the energy of a room full of your biggest fans starts turning against you. "No, they're amazing, it's just there's a lot to manage here, it's 4K, it's kinda new," Pitchford quickly followed, trying to win the crowd back. Thankfully a full-on riot was averted when the third time was the charm and the trailer finally played without a hitch.
Realizing none of this is going to matter when we finally get to play Borderlands 3
One of the Gearbox staffers hosting the stream, creative director Paul Sage, remained totally silent until it was time to talk about Borderlands 3. Quite frankly, everyone could stand to learn something from Paul. Today was obviously about Borderlands 3, yet it got less screen time than a magic trick. And more to the point, while the reveal trailer was pretty exciting - as evidenced by our irresponsibly detailed Borderlands 3 trailer breakdown - it was ultimately just more Borderlands. And don't get me wrong, more Borderlands is exactly what I was hoping for, but the fact that we're just going to be playing more Borderlands in a few seasons' time really drives home how pointless all the pomp and circumstance was. When I'm blissfully wading through a never-ending sea of cel-shaded guns, Gearbox Publishing, Randy 'just let me be a magician already' Pitchford, and the Borderlands card game will be far from my mind.
While you're here, check out our theory on why Handsome Jack could still return in Borderlands 3. Or check out our video breakdown of the secret codes hidden in the Borderlands 3 teaser trailer.