Gearbox Software’s post-apocalyptic first-person shooter series Borderlands has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past six years. It has received numerous accolades, and, at the same time, come under fire for controversy surrounding the origins of its distinctive cel-shaded visual style. But beneath its turbulent history runs an MMORPG undercurrent of which most players were unaware. Or ran, in this case. Take-Two Interactive announced the cancellation of Borderlands Online last Friday, and with it, the closure of 2K China, who had been developing the game for the past year.
According to an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Take-Two stated that “the additional time required to finish current projects at the studio, particularly Borderlands Online, would not yield a favorable return on investment.” They continued by saying that “we [Take-Two] are working with affected staff to identify other opportunities within the company where possible.” Take-Two’s words may come as small consolation after the closure of several other 2K studios, including 2K Australia, who co-developed the tepidly-received Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel alongside Gearbox. 2K themselves, however, seems to be doing well financially.
Borderlands Online was planned to be an MMORPG spinoff of Gearbox’s Borderlands series, featuring the series’ “loot-and-shoot” hybrid RPG and shooter gameplay, four playable (and customizable) character classes, and the return of Borderlands‘ iconic masked bandits. It was developed by the aforementioned 2K China and published by Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, and would have been released both for home computers and for mobile devices. The game’s story would presumably have taken place after the first two Borderlands games, and would have featured many recognizable locations from the series. Though the game was apparently in open beta earlier this year, there were no plans to release the game beyond China. This is unsurprising, considering how China tends to keep many domestically-produced games within national boundaries due to issues like foreign localization. At the same time, China’s massive MMORPG industry is booming, with an astounding 87 billion yuan ($13 billion US) flowing through the industry as of 2013.