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Take-Two Interactive has taken steps to shut down and close up one of their studios in China. The 2K China division, which was responsible for developing Borderlands Online, is no more. The company also cancelled any further development on Borderlands Online.
GamesIndustry.biz actually received word from Take-Two about the closure, where a spokesperson explained to them...
We are excited about the opportunities to expand our business in Asia, and we remain committed to delivering triple-A offerings for that region. At this time, we can confirm that we are closing 2K China,
Take-Two is working to help those affected by the closure – which saw 150 staff laid off from the Shanghai studio – to help find work elsewhere.
Also, that's a very interesting thing for them to mention – explaining that Borderlands Online would not yield a favorable return on investment. Usually publishers are quick to cash in on popular properties in the free-to-play arena. Activision has a free-to-play Call of Duty, and Microsoft's region-restricted Halo Online is constantly being pried into by people outside of Russia. But part of the problem is that the free-to-play bubble seems to have popped.
At one point everyone was all-in on free-to-play games with cash shop microtransactions. But an oversaturation of the model with low-quality titles led to a massive drop-off in interest from the community. Lots of free-to-play titles have closed up shop recently, such as Battlefield: Play 4 Free, Need For Speed Online, Battlefield Heroes, Rise of the Incarnates and Age of Empires Online, just to name a few.
I'm pretty sure the big wigs at Take-Two took a look at the books and decided that it was probably best to just let the online version of Borderlands bite the dust.
We didn't hear or see much about Borderlands Online, and so I can't say for sure exactly what the gameplay was going to be like, but I imagine a large portion of the game would be centered around questing, shooting and looting. Trying to find a decent balance between gameplay grind and a need to use the cash shop was probably the biggest issue. That's not to mention that after Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel the brand name took a bit of a hit in the reputation department because gamers saw that last outing as a way to cash in on the popularity of Borderlands rather than as a legitimate, fully-featured entry in the first-person shooter series.
Coupling The Pre-Sequel with a lot of the negative press surrounding Aliens: Colonial Marines left some gamers sour to the name of Gearbox, but in the case of Borderlands Online I don't know how far that kind of stigma would carry over into that region.
The Borderlands franchise itself will see a third game released eventually. Gearbox Software is currently staffing up and laying down the foundations for Borderlands 3, but development is not fully underway so don't expect to see that anytime soon.