by Joseph Leray
Given all the intellectual property auctions going lately — THQ just wrapped theirs up, only to be followed by Atari — I’ve been a little curious about how it all even works. Is it a silent auction? Is there a cowboy-hatted Texan fast-talking, “1.35 million, 1.35 million for ’Homeworld'”?
According to a refreshingly frank Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox Software, it mostly happens over the phone.
During a PAX Australia panel last week, Gearbox announced its plans to remaster “Homeworld 1” and “2” and release them on Steam. Pitchford also took the opportunity to explain how high-level rights purchases go down.
“When THQ started to evaporate, Brian [Martel] kept coming to my office everyday and saying, ’Hey Randy, you got to get Homeworld,'” he explained. Brian Martel is Gearbox’ chief creative officer. It’s “sort of a weirdly long process.”
During initial bidding, interested parties had to put money into a special account, so that THQ (and their creditors) could check everything out. “We had to put money in an escrow account that the people were auctioning off all the THQ properties were given a look at to see if we were good for it,” Pitchford explained. “We couldn’t just raise a card ’number 23,, we’ll put down a million,’ you actually had to put the money in.”
The field was eventually whittled down to three bidders, at which point a live auction happened over the phone. “We were the only developer. And that was really interesting,” said Pitchford. Gearbox had to beat out Aspyr Media and Paradox Interactive for the rights to Relic Entertainment’s classic space strategy sim, according to court documents.
Stardock was involved in earlier bidding rounds, as was teamPixel, a small indie studio that used crowdfunding to raise over $70,000 to obtain the rights to “Homeworld.” Gearbox’ final bid was $1.35 million.
A few weeks later, Gearbox got to work revamping the “Homeworld” series for a Steam re-release. “We were able to get a hard drive filled with everything,” Martel said. “And then we started an investigation in how we were going to build the game. We are going to upgrade all the ships, make it look amazing for current-gen. At this point it needs a fresh coat of paint.”
“Homeworld” “meant something to me, so I really thought that we should get it out there for the rest of the world,” Martel explained to the Australian audience. “And a lot of folks haven’t had a chance to play it, it has only been on DVD or CD, it has not ever been released digitally.”
No release dates have been announced yet, but Gearbox have promised to release the original versions of “Homeworld 1” and “2” on Steam alongside their visually updated cousins.
Gearbox has an unfortunately checkered history with working on other companies’ intellectual property, but, y’know, fingers crossed for now.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter