Claptrap voice actor and former Gearbox vice president of licensing and business development David Eddings said last week that he was not returning to the role in Borderlands 3 because of a pay dispute: He "insisted on getting paid" for his work (his previous performances were on the house because he was a Gearbox executive) but he and the studio couldn't agree on terms.
It was disappointing for some fans but seemed like a non-issue that would blow over fairly quickly, until Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford weighed in.
There was no “force” - He wanted it (and reveled in it). The issue today is that Mr. Eddings is bitter and disgruntled about having been terminated. He was offered 2x scale, he refused. I don’t want him to do it unless he wants to do it, as motivation affects performance.May 4, 2019
That led Eddings to go in hard with a multi-tweet response in which he also raised allegations about past royalties he's still owed (the 'payment' he was actually referring to) and "$12 million of revenue [Pitchford] siphoned away from the employee royalty pool." He also accused Pitchford of assaulting him in 2017.
Today, Eddings has gone deeper into his allegations in an interview with Newsweek (opens in new tab), in which he details the specifics of his assault claim and says he was "rage fired" shortly after.
One of the incidents Eddings describes in the interview sounds like an attempt at playful (albeit wholly inappropriate) horseplay: While he waited in a sound booth to perform as Claptrap as part of a studio tour for former 2K Games president Christoph Hartmann, Pitchford entered the booth, pulled off Eddings' headphones, and gave him a wet willy. After that, "he jumped back and he cackled at me," Eddings said. "Christoph and I are looking at each other like, what just happened?"
The alleged assault was more serious. Eddings said it took place at the 2017 Game Developers Conference at the Marriott Marquis hotel, during which he was told by two separate people that someone named Greg Richardson was inquiring about a price on Gearbox. Pitchford and Richardson apparently knew either other at that point: the ongoing lawsuit between Gearbox and former counsel Wade Callendar alleges that they had worked together on prior financial deals.
Eddings says that when he approached Pitchford about it, Pitchford demanded to know where he got the information, and became angry when Eddings refused to tell him.
"He shoved the fuck out of me while I'm on the balls of my feet trying to whisper. [He] knocked me back four steps... I believe I caught him in a deception," Eddings said.
He also named two witnesses to the encounter: One told Newsweek that he didn't see what actually happened but that Eddings was "noticeably upset about what he described as an altercation with his boss" shortly after, but the other, Gearbox co-founder Landon Montgomery, confirmed it, saying, "David leaned up to whisper something to Randy and out of the blue, Randy shoves him, hard."
Shortly after GDC, Eddings said he was "rage fired" because he refused to reveal his source. Despite all of that, Eddings said he would still be willing to return to perform as Claptrap, "as soon as Randy makes a public apology to me and pays me the royalties I'm owed."
In a response to Eddings' claims, Gearbox repeated the first half of the statement it released earlier this week, saying that it takes all such claims very seriously but will not comment because it is a personnel matter. But, it added, "We think it’s a shame that the 400+ employees here who have poured the love and passion into Borderlands 3 are having their work be diluted by personal allegations."
Update: The Newsweek report initially said Pitchford "tackled" Eddings after giving him the wet willy. It has since corrected the statement to say Pitchford "cackled" at him.