The next Borderlands isn't Borderlands 3, and it's not being developed by Gearbox. As we learned earlier this week, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (read our preview!) bridges the gap between Borderlands and Borderlands 2, it's only on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and development has been handed to 2K Australia. Oh, and it's set on the moon.
Placing Borderlands with a new studio and introducing a new setting offered up a chance to reinvigorate the series, says 2K Australia general manager Tony Lawrence. "We had an opportunity to make it fresh. We sat down with these guys from Gearbox Software, talked about where it would be and who the characters would be, and what the fans would really like. The moon was something that came up quite a bit. So that was it: to the moon." The lunar environment naturally lends itself to The Pre-Sequel's headline features like low gravity and the necessity of oxygen. The Pre-Sequel also introduces the ability to freeze and shatter enemies with ice weapons.
And, of course, it has new playable characters. That includes allowing players to play as Claptrap for the first time, something that could be equal parts amusement and annoyance – but we'll get to that in a moment. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel runs on Borderlands 2 tech, and some may wonder why Gearbox and 2K Australia opted to create a completely new game rather than DLC, something Borderlands 2 already has in spades. According to Matt Armstrong, Borderlands franchise director at Gearbox, part of the reason is that Borderlands 2 just can't accommodate any more DLC. "Every time you make a new content or DLC for a game, it takes up more memory than the original game," he says. "So every new weapon, every new gear, every new class, all that stuff takes up memory. We simply ran out." As for why Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel won't be appearing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Armstrong says the Borderlands audience is still on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. "The install base [on Xbox One and PS4] isn't quite there yet," he says. "They're doing fantastically well, and it's going to be great in the next couple years, but I think we're going to go where our fans are."
The demand for Borderlands is still there, he says. "Our experience is [that] a surprisingly large percentage of our fans have finished [Borderlands 2]. And a huge number have played through it again, and then again, and again, and again. And the DLC sells extremely well. People want more, and people want to keep it fresh, and they want us to keep them entertained. And besides, it's a lot of fun to make." The decision to create Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel wasn't directed by marketing concerns, he says. "Borderlands has always been driven by a bunch of guys that want to make something fun. It isn't a package for marketing. The Tiny Tina DLC was so much fun to work on. At the end of [developing] most games, you're just burnt out. You don't want to look at it. You don't want to play it again. When you finish making a Borderlands game, you go home and play it. It's different."
In other words, sometime this fall, somewhere, there will be four Claptraps rolling around the moon, blasting baddies and prattling away. Whether that's a nightmare or a dream come true is up for interpretation.