Last December, Take-Two sent an unusual recruitment message to all employees of the game designer Star Theory Games over LinkedIn. It was weird for two reasons- First, it came from the executive producer Michael Cook from the game producing company which was funding their next game. Second, it said that the game that they had been developing for the last 2 years “Kerbal Space Program 2” was pulled out from their studio.
In the message, Take Two Interactive Inc. 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 further stated that the development of the game will continue at a new studio and they wanted to hire the entire Star Theory staff for it. This was strange as such announcements were usually announced at the company’s companywide meeting or through emails from the Star Theory’s leadership. Star Theory founders Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor had been in discussions to sell their company to Take-Two but were unsatisfied by their terms, the game being pulled out was a huge hit to them as it was their only source of income at that time but they believed they could pull through as they had some money in the bank and could try to sign other deals.
The next few weeks were chaos with more than a third of Star Theory’s employees shifting to Take-Two including their studio head. In March, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and all hope was lost. Star Theory had to close its doors. Take Two’s tactics were extreme, even by video game business standards. The company behind the GTA franchise has a market value of $15 billion and its stock has gone up 10% due to people being stuck at home. This incident perfectly shows the frailty of Business relationships and power dynamics in the industry.
The new studio is named Intercept games and over half of Star Theory’s staff is working in it.