In 2011, the world was introduced to the adorable and insane game that is Kerbal Space Program. Steadily making its way into early access and then launching fully in 2015, it spawned plenty of failed launch attempts and successful moon landings. The success of the game led to Take-Two acquiring developer Squad in 2017. With Kerbal Space Program 2 announced and then delayed, everything seemed on track. That is, it did until development changed hands from Star Theory Games to a new studio under the Take-Two publishing arm, Private Division.
Trouble behind the scenes
Take-Two never revealed the reasons for this change. However, we now have more information, thanks to a report by Bloomberg. The troubles reportedly stemmed from a failed acquisition discussion between Take-Two and the Star Theory founders. Dissatisfied with the terms offered, Star Theory’s Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor pulled the deal.
Following this, on December 6, 2019, Take-Two rescinded the contract of developing Kerbal Space Program 2 from the studio. The corporation reportedly followed up by directly messaging all of Star Theory’s employees, encouraging them to apply for jobs at a new studio it was setting up for development. Intercept Games, as it would become known, saw more than a third of ex-Star Theory employees join the company. This included studio head Jeremy Ables, creative director Nate Simpson, and lead producer Nate Robinson.
With Kerbal Space Program 2 being the only source of income for Star Theory, the end was near. Remaining staffers scrambled for ideas and prototypes to pitch to other publishers. This was their last Hail Mary as the Game Developers Conference 2020 drew near. Then, COVID-19 struck, the conference was postponed, and all hopes were lost. The studio closed on March 4.
Tit for tat
Two different perspectives came out of the situation. The report quotes industry analyst Doug Creutz as saying such a move was a “reputational risk” for Take-Two. The closure of Star Theory may put some indie studios off from future collaborations. However, Private Division was of a different mindset. It put out a statement saying that the change would only make for a better Kerbal Space Program 2.
“Private Division opened our own studio, Intercept Games, to bring the development of Kerbal Space Program 2 for our beloved and owned KSP franchise in-house. In doing so, we are empowering our deeply passionate and talented team to focus on quality, and we are thrilled with the progress that they are making on the game,” the statement read.
“Next year’s launch of KSP2 will serve as another proud step in the history of the franchise, and we are confident that KSP fans will greatly enjoy where Intercept Games is taking the series.”
Regardless of the side you take, the closure of Star Theory remains a tragedy for all involved. The optics certainly don’t reflect well on Take-Two here, but business decisions can sometimes be hard to take. Here’s hoping that all developers affected landed on their feet.