Gearbox is in a weird spot this year. The company has been the source of a lot of drama, largely inadvertently. Although some if it is absolutely advertently, but you know, let’s be nice. While Borderlands is a beloved modern franchise, the company’s reputation was tarnished after the whole Aliens: Colonial Marines thing happened. Then Battleborn happened, and it seemed like the Internet took more glee out of it failing than anything else (seriously that was really weird). But while the demand for Borderlands 3 is still high, that seems a ways off still. Instead, a new Gearbox game is on the horizon, and making a small appearance at E3. It’s a game with a strange gimmick, but with a competitive edge that seems like an odd way to follow Battleborn. Can a game in a familiar space but with an odd hook work, or will an already antsy fanbase turn it away in an instant?
The game doesn’t have a real title now, but it’s called Project 1v1 for now. It’s intended to be a highly competitive online shooter, with two major hooks. The first is, of course, that it’s a one-on-one affair. The second is that cards are involved somehow. Information beyond that is pretty scarce, as Gearbox has been keeping the whole thing super close to the chest. Presumably, the cards give players access to some kind of boost, or perhaps unique abilities that can be kitted out to develop specific kinds of play tactics. But that’s all guesswork from me!
We’ll find out more soon enough. A press release was sent out confirming that Project 1v1 will be playable at E3, but the public won’t see it. Only media folks with invites will be able to play it behind closed doors (against each other and presumably people involved with testing and tuning), and they won’t be allowed to capture footage. Gearbox will release a set of official screenshots and allow preview articles through, so expect a flood of impressions sometime after E3 2018 wraps up.
I mostly find myself wondering how this move will be received by the general public. The world of competitive shooters is as chock full now as hero shooters and MOBA were before. Battleborn isn’t the only game that failed in those spaces; we also saw the likes of LawBreakers and Epic Games’ Paragon rise and fall just as quickly. And lots of other games I may be forgetting, because that’s how harsh the territory is right now.
So Project 1v1 is technically unique. But so was LawBreakers, and this sounds even more niche. But we also don’t know the scope of the game yet. Maybe the card system is a hint at a free to play style, which could be a boon early on, especially if Gearbox is still enough of a name commodity to get people to jump in out of associated curiosity. But even if the game is good, it’s been proven that isn’t enough.
I’m not really worried about it, nor do I have personal stakes in Gearbox’s well-being or not. But I am really curious. It could be that the game has been long in development, well before Battleborn didn’t pan out. Or maybe this is a genuine reaction to that, and we’re (creatively) tossing darts at a board here to make something that stands out. It’s too early to tell! But I do respect how coy Gearbox is being – too much early marketing hype can often be a death curse, especially for a company with as much drama as Gearbox. A real drip-feed of information may just be the ticket. We’ll see after E3.