You would’ve thought Gearbox had learned their lesson about outsourcing after Aliens: Colonial Marines made the case for a Cowboy Builders: Game Development special, but thank goodness they haven’t. While July found the FPS studio tentatively browsing THQ’s hard drives and pondering building a Homeworld sequel themselves, last week saw them sign over development duties to Blackbird Interactive – a studio of Relic refugees already hard at work on a spiritual successor named Hardware: Shipbreakers.
Gearbox have given Blackbird their blessing, a shedload of cash and, crucially, a name – Homeworld: Shipbreakers.
“These guys have been funded by private equity, but it’s clear it was going to take many millions of dollars more,” said a suddenly much-more-likeable Randy Pitchford. “We’re giving them the brand and the resources to make this happen. Now, these guys are cooking and with the money they have now, they can grow the team.”
Blackbird CEO Rob Cunningham told Polygon that the Homeworld name was a perfect fit for what his team had been developing.
“Hardware, in all respects, was Homeworld,” he said. “It looked, sounded and felt the same, but we wanted to take that style and experience further. When [Gearbox] acquired the property, it coincided with when we needed to find a partner.”
“We wanted the project to live and thrive and grow,” added CCO Aaron Kambeitz. “We didn’t want it to go to a publisher that would let it die. We reached out to them and congratulated them on [winning the IP] and that turned into a friendship.”
The deal was signed last week, at PAX’s pre-show developer meet. Now Blackbird will expand their team and continue development on the game without having to keep their Homeworld references and reverential nods in check. “The retcons to bring the two brands together will be painless,” said Kambeitz.
As for Gearbox’s home-grown Homeworld sequel? Consider that bud nipped.
“Gearbox is not in the best spot to make a sci-fi RTS successor,” admitted Pitchford. “We’ve become expert at production and that’s where we can help. I mean, we shipped Duke Nukem Forever, we didn’t build it but we made sure it came out. And that’s a fucking miracle.”
“Honestly, this is why we exist,” said the Gearbox head, adding that the developers would rather enable Blackbird that spend their Borderlands earnings “on a bunch of super cars”.
Well: this has been an unexpected turn up for the books, wouldn’t you say? Relic and the Homeworld IP might not have been reunited, but Blackbird might be every bit as well-placed to revive the series as Gearbox aren’t.