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Catching Up With Gearbox's Randy Pitchford


June 13, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 10 Next
 

Texas-based developer Gearbox Software was founded in 1999, and started out working on titles such as Half-Life: Opposing Force and Half-Life: Blue Shift, while also developing the PC version of Bungie's Halo.

In recent years, the company has, relatively quietly, become a major development studio, employing 175 people and simultaneously creating several high profile games for major publishers.

Much of this expansion was initially due to the success of the company's Brothers In Arms World War II combat franchise, but the firm now has a raft of different games in development, including a Wii version of Samba De Amigo for Sega, next-gen sci-fi franchise Borderlines, a FPS based on the Aliens movie franchise, and the soon-to-debut Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway.

Recently, Gamasutra got a chance to sit down with Randy Pitchford, the company's outspoken president, and discuss wide-ranging topics -- including what it means to own your IP - which the company does with Brothers In Arms - the strategy of staying independent, and who really won the last console generation.

The Old Days

I actually came down to Gearbox after QuakeCon '03 and saw Halo [for PC].

RP: Oh yeah, I thought you looked familiar!

With no air conditioning.

RP: Yeah, that was weird. What the hell? Yeah, we're in the building now. We have the top four floors and we knocked all the walls down and built them much more comfortably.

The same building?

RP: Yeah. We were on the 10th floor when you came. Now we have the top four floors.

Wow.

RP: And we just knocked down all the walls and made a really comfortable environment for us.

It sounds like you've grown a lot since '03.

RP: We're about 175 people now.

One thing I thought was interesting about your studio was that when Brothers in Arms came out, there was this feeling that there was nothing left to do with World War II. Granted, people are still doing stuff with World War II even now, but it kind of went off in a little bit of a left turn for people and it worked out.

RP: We took a risk there, for sure. A lot of the stuff before then, and I've had fun with it... in fact, it was because of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault that I felt that we could finally take the risk and do what we wanted to do in that space and know that there was an audience there. But it was a bit of a risk.

We didn't do the typical "make a Quake-style shooter and just dress it with World War II textures." We said, "Okay, what is that fantasy really about for us?" and did something a little bit different there.

Not just that. Maybe Ubisoft was a little bit of a different company when that happened, but I would think someone in that league would say... I can't impugn Call of Duty, because it is what it is, but I think part of the reason it came about was Activision looked at Medal of Honor and quite literally said, "We want that." You know what I mean? Granted, it's surpassed Medal of Honor now.

RP: Medal of Honor has been... between us and Call of Duty, they're having a hard time.

My point is that I'm happy but a little bit surprised that Ubisoft didn't also say, "We want that."

RP: We brought them the game, and Ubisoft has been a great partner. They've been happy to work with us, and we've been happy to work with them.

When we brought the game to them, we were playing it, and it was a smaller... it was not a complete version, but it was basically what we finished. They were able to see what we wanted to do and understood it.

The other thing is that they're a great company. They're not afraid to try things. They've got the Clancy brand, and they have a few different angles on that.

Some angles are more action-oriented, they've got the stealth thing going, and they've also got a more tactical angle with the Clancy brand. They understand that there are different flavors with these experiences.

And they're a big, publicly traded company, you know? But it's funny, I sit down with [CEO] Yves [Guillemot], and he plays games. He runs the show, and he's the top dog of the whole thing. I think that's neat. We've got that thing in common. He's able to respect things that are good for the sake of it.


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