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Epic Games Store paid a lot for Borderlands 3 exclusive — and made it back fast

Shelled out $146M to 2K Games, got back $110M in first two weeks

A character from Borderlands 3 shoots a winged creature from its hand
Borderlands 3
Image: Gearbox Software/2K Games
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The Epic Games vs. Apple lawsuit started its trial phase on Monday, and already the case documents are providing a steady drip of trade secrets pertinent to Epic Games and the Epic Games Store, in particular.

Another case exhibit shows that Epic paid 2K Games $146 million, up front, to sell 2019’s Borderlands 3 for Windows PC exclusively through the Epic Games Store. Epic made back $80 million (the minimum sales it guaranteed to 2K) in the first two weeks, the document says.

text of a court exhibit breaking down what Epic Games paid to 2K Games to exclusively sell Borderlands 3: $80 million minimum sales guarantee, $15 million marking charge, $20 million one-time fee; $31 million to sell bundles for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and Civilization. The total is $146 million. Epic made back $109.2 million two weeks after Borderlands 3’s launch in September 2019. Image: Simon Carless/Twitter

The $146 million fee comprises the minimum guarantee, a $15 million marketing commitment, and another $20 million charge, plus $31 million to sell Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and a Civilization bundle on the Epic Games Store. Epic made back $109.2 million in those first two weeks, adding more than 750,000 new users to the Epic Games Store thanks to Borderlands 3 alone.

It’s another glimpse of how Epic Games, in less than a year, built up an online storefront and made it a credible rival to Valve’s Steam marketplace. Other case documents shed light on how much Epic paid developers and publishers for the games it has been giving away to new users each month since starting the store in December 2018.

Epic’s venture into online sales almost immediately caused outrage among some PC gamers, beginning with Deep Silver’s announcement in January 2019 that Metro Exodus would be an Epic Games Store exclusive. Valve itself complained that the exclusive deal was unfair to Steam customers, who had already been preordering Metro Exodus. Steam had to discontinue sales of Metro Exodus altogether and didn’t get the game back until 2020.

With Borderlands 3, angry Steam users flooded the product pages for Borderlands 2 with off-topic, negative scores. It was the first game to trigger flags Steam set for “review bombs.”

In marketing to both developers and the public, Epic was targeting Steam’s widely publicized 30% cut of sales as unfair and undeserved, countering with its 12% cut for games sold on the Epic Games Store. Epic similarly characterizes Apple’s 30% take of sales from its App Store — for both apps and their in-app purchases — as greedy and anti-developer.

In August 2020, Epic deliberately engineered a circumvention of Apple’s in-app purchase process for Fortnite’s V-Bucks, which got the game kicked off the App Store and started the lawsuits playing out in court now.

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