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Gearbox lends Homeworld IP to spiritual successor Hardware: Shipbreakers developer

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Hardware: Shipbreakers, the spiritual successor to the Homeworld franchise being developed by founding members of Relic Entertainment, is now, thanks to Gearbox Software, officially a Homeworld game.

The game will now be titled Homeworld: Shipbreakers as part of a deal signed by Gearbox and developer Blackbird Interactive at PAX. What's more, Gearbox Software will help Blackbird complete the game with the help of financial and production resources, CEO Randy Pitchford told Polygon today.

"These guys have been funded by private equity, but it's clear it was going to take many millions of dollars more," Pitchford said. "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."

The deal, Pitchford said, was signed last Wednesday during PAX Dev, a developer-only event that precedes PAX Prime.

The game formerly known as Hardware: Shipbreakers was announced earlier this year as a spiritual successor — structured as a prequel, however — to Relic's Homeworld franchise.

"Hardware and Homeworld inevitably share much of the same DNA, and that's a good thing," Blackbird CEO Rob Cunningham said at the time. "Homeworld was a fantastic game and we want to recapture that. But what we're offering with Hardware is really a different kind of RTS experience that isn't found in Homeworld or any other RTS."


"Hardware, in all respects, was Homeworld," Cunningham told Polygon today. "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."

Gearbox acquired the Homeworld property as part of THQ's bankruptcy auction in May with a $1.35 million bid. Blackbird also competed for the IP, but lost to Gearbox.

"We wanted the project to live and thrive and grow," said Blackbird chief creative officer 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."

Now, with Gearbox's contribution, Blackbird will expand its team — it's currently hiring — and develop the game as if it were an entry in the Homeworld series. "The retcons to bring the two brands together will be painless," Kambeitz said.

"Honestly, this is why we exist," Pitchford said. He and Gearbox chief creative officer Brian Martel — who "personally spearheaded the acquisition" of the IP — "got into this industry as craftsman," Pitchford said, and they'd rather see Shipbreakers realize its full potential than spend their money "on a bunch of super cars."

Plans to release classic and high-definition versions of the first two Homeworld games are still in the works, Pitchford said. Gearbox will talk more about those plans at its PAX panel on Monday, but it sounds like it's leaving development of Homeworld: Shipbreakers largely up to Blackbird.

"Gearbox is not in the best spot to make a sci-fi RTS successor," Pitchford said, explaining that the Borderlands developer's expertise lies elsewhere (and it's also busy with Borderlands and other next-gen projects). "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."

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