Earlier this year, Take-Two Interactive announced that the development of the upcoming simulation game Kerbal Space Program 2 was shifting away from indie studio Star Theory Games to a newly formed in-house studio at their publishing label Private Division. The announcement mentioned that various key members of the Star Theory staff had moved to the new studio and would continue leading the sequel’s development.
No reasons as to this turnover and the shifting of developers was provided at the time, but a new report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier sheds light on damning circumstances surrounding the situation, which allegedly saw Take-Two Interactive poaching Star Theory Games’ staff, which, in turn, ultimately led to the indie studio being forced to close its doors.
According to the report, while development on the game was proceeding as planned, in December 2019, Star Theory Games employees got a message on LinkedIn from Take-Two Interactive, informing them that they would be taking the project away from the indie studio and handing it to a newly formed team, while offering all of them positions at said team.
As per the report, in the LinkedIn message, Take-Two executive Michael Cook wrote: “This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, but it became necessary when we felt business circumstances might compromise the development, execution and integrity of the game. To that end, we encourage you to apply for a position with us.” The message also explained that Take-Two would be “offering a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility and other benefits.”
As it turned out, Star Theory co-founders Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor went on to disclose to their staff in a meeting shortly afterward that they had been in discussions with Take-Two regarding an acquisition of their studio, but that talks had not proceeded well.
With the Kerbal Space Program 2 contract with Take-Two the only source of income for the studio, Star Theory were in potential trouble, but Berry and Mavor assured employees that they had enough funds to remain afloat. Many members of the studio’s workforce immediately signed on with Intercept Games – the new studio formed to work on Kerbal Space Program 2 (as per the report, over half of Star Theory’s former staff are now employed at Intercept) – but those remaining at Star Theory decided to get to work immediately on ideas for a new project, that they would pitch to publishers at GDC 2020.
That, however, did not take into account the COVID-19 pandemic, which would go on to cause the delay of GDC 2020, among many, many other events. This ultimately led to Star Theory Games’ closure on March 4 of this year.
Kerbal Space Program is currently in development for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Following its recent delay, it’s due out in Fall 2021.