Take-Two quietly kills the private division

In recent weeks, Reports emerged Take-Two is shutting down Kerbal Space Program 2 developer Intercept Games and OlliOlli World developer Roll7. Now, IGN has learned that these closures are not only imminent, but are part of a larger move by Take-Two to either sell or shutter its entire independent label, Private Division.

Earlier this month, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick told IGN that Take-Two is “not shutting down.” Its independent studios are Intercept Games and Roll7. At the time, that was technically true; Both studios are currently up and running, but they won’t be around for long. Speaking to several anonymous sources familiar with the matter, IGN independently confirmed that Intercept Games is scheduled to close on June 28, following the notice period required by the Washington State WARN Act. Roll7 is also similarly about to end, although there is still a small team to tie up pending matters.

Meanwhile, Take-Two wants to get rid of the private division, one way or another. In February, IGN learned that employees were told that layoffs were imminent, but no details were provided about how many employees would be employed, why, or what was happening. Then, at the end of April, management informed company employees that Take-Two would no longer support the special division, at which time almost all employees were laid off.

There’s still a small staff to support the remaining announced games that Private Division has publishing deals with: No Rest for the Wicked from Moon Studios (which is currently in Early Access), Tales of the Shire from Wētā Workshop, and an untitled project from Game Freak. Take-Two has backed out of two other publishing deals it had previously agreed to under the title – one Previously announced deal With the Bloober team, and other sources described to us that it could have been with the developer of Ghostrunner One More Level.

The people at Private Division were amazing, talented, passionate individuals who loved what they did.

Although the private division and its associated studios appear to be in danger of disappearing altogether, Take-Two is looking at other options… albeit with mixed success. The publisher is in talks to find a buyer for the Kerbal Space Program IP, with or without Intercept Games attached. IGN has learned that discussions took place regarding such a deal with strategy game publisher Paradox Interactive, but they fell through, and it is not clear whether another buyer will come along in time.

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Take-Two is also in discussions to sell its private division, and has found interest from a private equity firm. Although a deal has not yet been agreed upon, sources were aware that the talks are being partly facilitated by individuals with ties to the leadership of Moon Studios. But two of my sources expressed concerns about such a deal and its connections, citing A VentureBeat 2022 Report Alleging “oppressive” working conditions at Moon Studios. One source I spoke with confirmed that “everything” in the report was “true and worse” and another described the studio’s founders as “cruel” and a “nightmare” to work with.

Everyone I spoke to for this story expressed frustration with Take-Two’s leadership over alleged mismanagement of the brand, and accused chief strategy officer and special division president Michael Worces of poor leadership. Sources say the company was often saddled with unreasonable sales targets, and was pressured to release games before they were ready, with Kerbal Space Program 2 being a notable recent example. However, everyone I spoke to shared the feelings of sadness surrounding Private Division’s fate, citing the team’s dedicated mission to help small, independent studios, especially those that are newer and less established.

“The people at Private Division were amazing, talented, passionate individuals who loved what they did and truly cared about each other as a team and as people,” one person said. “We loved our projects, worked hard, and fostered a great environment internally. I would love to work with any of them again. The pain point has always been Take-Two and the associated leadership forcing us to do so. The whole layoff situation has proven what we already felt Take-Two was “Two couldn’t care less about her employees.”

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Take-Two declined to comment for this piece. Moon Studios did not respond in time for publication.

Rebecca Valentine is a senior reporter at IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to [email protected].

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