Gearbox CEO Addresses ‘Aliens’ Failure, Seeks Developer for New ‘Duke Nukem’

Gearbox Software/Sega
Gearbox Software/Sega

Randy Pitchford, CEO of game developer Gearbox Software, spoke at the Develop conference in Brighton, England. He addressed gamers that criticized first-person shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines and Gearbox’s search for a development partner for a new Duke Nukem title.

Gearbox released Aliens: Colonial Marines in 2013 to negative reviews and Metacritic scores of 45, 43, and 48/100 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 consoles, respectively. The game was criticized for not matching its demo quality, and gamers even filed a class action lawsuit against Gearbox and publisher Sega over misleading buyers with pre-release promotional materials that did not match the quality of the release version of the game. Gearbox was eventually dropped from the suit, and Sega said it would contribute $1.25 million towards its settlement. Aliens co-developer TimeGate Studios had to file bankruptcy and close soon after the game’s release. Aliens had to sell 3 million copies to recover its makers’ investments, but instead only sold 1.3 million.

The Gearbox CEO even revealed how the game impacted him, personally:

Reflecting on criticism of Aliens, Pitchford, in his keynote speech at Develop, said that “if you’re making entertainment on a grand scale, if you’re reaching millions, there will be tens of thousands of people who absolutely hate us, and some percentage of those will take it upon themselves to let us known [sic] how they feel.”

He continued, claiming, “I read it in this way: we moved those people, we touched them – even the person who hates [your game] so much, you’ve affected them. That’s why we fight, we’re creating emotion and experience – and some people thrive on that type of feeling, some people are sadists.”

Pitchford drew an analogy between disgruntled gamers and people who will destroy sand castles, saying, “There is always the person who’s got to stand on the sandcastle, they must crush it. That’s their way of relating to that. It’s typically a less sophisticated mind. There’s a dark part of us all that likes the idea of crushing a sandcastle, but most of us will respect it and let it be. That’s why we like playing video games where we can blow stuff up and no one gets hurt.”

Addressing a new Duke Nukem, the Gearbox CEO said “we’ve done some concept development. The challenge is that Gearbox is very busy. A faster way would be if the correct developer would become interested and we’d work with them.” The last game in the series, Duke Nukem Forever, received Metacritic scores of 54, 51, and 49/100 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, respectively.

Pitchford cited the over-15-year development cycle of Forever as a source for the game’s problems, saying, “For 10 years it was promised as the greatest game that would ever be made. It was legendary in its vapourware status. So it had a particular pole of attention.”

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