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The Gearbox Royalty Bonus System
At Gearbox, we have a pretty awesome profit-sharing model for development talent called the Gearbox Royalty Bonus System. We’ve been around the industry a long time and we don’t know of any other AAA game development studio that features a profit sharing system as generous and as objective as the model at Gearbox. Our founders established this system with the principle that talent deserves to participate in the profitability of the studio’s projects and teams are more successful together when everyone involved is aligned with entertainment objectives and business objectives of the company and its efforts. Sadly, this is pretty rare in the video game industry.
The fundamental principles of Gearbox’s Royalty Bonus System are transparency, objectivity, and integrity.
Our founders didn’t want to propagate one of our industries dirtiest secrets – arbitrary bonus payments based on subjective factors like how close your office is to the boss, who you go to lunch with regularly, and who you play video games with on weekends. Our founders understand that the performance of our efforts is tied to the collective performance of the talented teams behind them. They wanted a system of profit sharing that is clear to everyone and that can be trusted and is totally objective across the board for everyone. The Gearbox Royalty Bonus System is based on a transparent, formulaic model where all talent at the company has a stake in the success of the entertainment we create together.
So how does the Royalty Bonus system work? Well, it’s super simple. After the bills are paid, the lights are on, and the game breaks even, you get a bonus. It’s the fundamental principle behind all business – to make a little (or sometimes a lot) more than is spent. Any business that spends more than it makes will eventually go away. Gearbox has been around for over 20 years and is just getting started. In fact, every year since Gearbox was founded, Gearbox has been profitable and that profit goes right into the Gearbox Royalty System where all the talent at the company all gets a share. The share of profits earned by each person is pretty simple, too – it’s a clear, objective formula that factors how long you’ve been at the company and the development cycle of the project for which profit is earned. The formula is the same whether you’re a studio head or a starting developer. There’s no funny stuff, it’s all in simple, clear and transparent writing and it’s all objective math. And the math is awesome. Just in the last decade, Gearbox has distributed more than $100 million in royalty bonuses to the talent behind Gearbox games.
Why do we do it this way? We believe our games can be better if everyone involved in making them is invested in their profitability. We believe that caring about the relationship between time and value or the relationship between cost and benefit is important in every aspect of entertainment development. Most importantly, the founders of Gearbox are actual game developers – coders, artists and designers – who wanted to build the kind of studio that they could be proud to be a part of, which is the kind of studio that understands that we’re all in it together. If we miss, we can learn together so we can do better next time. If we hit, we should all enjoy the success of the value we’ve created together. Having a stake in the result makes creating entertainment with Gearbox more rewarding, fun, and fair.
The Royalty Bonus System model at Gearbox is unique in the games industry and is just one of the great features of being a part of the Gearbox family. Click around to check out the others, hope to see you soon!