“What’s 25 million, 30 million units? That sucks.”
The cartoonish Art Style of Borderlands put a limit on the potential size of the franchise’s audience, according to Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford.
On the latest episode of our monthly interview show IGN Unfiltered, Pitchford discussed Gearbox’s decision to ditch their original plan to use a realistic art Style in favor of a more cartoonish one, which was ultimately a better fit for Borderlands. While he believes it was the right move, the cap the non-realistic aesthetic put on the series’ success is “one of the most frustrating things” for him about the franchise.
Pitchford said he knew that when he decided to go with the cartoon art style it would “fix the dissonance” between the visuals and the gameplay, but it would also put a limit on Borderlands’s potential audience. “I knew it was putting a ceiling on us because there’s—especially back then—there’s just a huge percentage of the gaming audience that does not want a cartoon,” he explained.
Despite its art style, Borderlands has proven to be quite a successful franchise for Gearbox. Borderlands 2 shipped 5 million copies in its opening months and went on to pass the 12 million mark by March of 2015. Still, Pitchford believes the series’ aesthetic is a limiting factor. “The ceiling’s still there, we’re just pushing it,” he explained.
While he’s “not sad” about Borderlands 2‘s sales, Pitchford noted that there’s still a whole lot of people in the world who didn’t buy it. “Our mission is to entertain the world, so we are dismal failures. Borderlands is a horrific failure if our goal is to entertain the world,” he explained. “There’s seven billion people in the world. What’s 25 million, 30 million units? That sucks,” Pitchford added, laughing.
For more on the Borderlands franchise, as well as Pitchford’s thoughts about Duke Nukem Forever and his experience working with Bungie on Halo for PC, check out part one of our full IGN Unfiltered interview with the Gearbox Software co-founder.
Alex Osborn is a freelance writer for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @alexcosborn.