A report published on Bloomberg suggests that publisher Take-Two initiated a hostile takeover of the Kerbal Space Program 2 project by poaching many employees associated with the game’s development.
This story starts when developer Star Theory Games was asked to work on Kerbal Space Program 2. Work on the project was seemingly going well, but about two years into the game’s development, some Star Theory Games employees began receiving a message via LinkedIn which seemed to have been sent by an executive producer at publisher Take-Two Interactive.
The message suggested that Take-Two was pulling the Kerbal Space Program 2 project from Star Theory Games. It went on to note that any interested Star Theory Games employees should apply for a position within Take-Two if they wished to continue working on the sequel. The representative that sent the message even noted that Take-Two intended to create a studio to continue the development of Kerbal Space Program 2 and that any Star Theory employees that continued to work on the project as members of the studio would receive “a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility, and other benefits”
Here’s where things get really strange. It seems that this message was the first time the Star Theory employees had heard that they’d lost the Kerbal Space Program 2 project. For that matter, Star Theory founders Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor seemed to be a little shocked regarding how that news was delivered, as they scrambled to confirm it was true via a company meeting. At that meeting, they also noted that there had been discussions for Take-Two to acquire the studio, but the two sides couldn’t reach a deal. The founders ensured employees that the plan was to keep the company afloat and pursue other deals.
It was at that time that some of the first Star Theory team members began accepting Take-Two’s offer. Those that didn’t were reportedly informed that the plan was for everyone to brainstorm new game concepts so that the studio could be prepared to pitch one at the 2020 GDC event. However, GDC 2020 was converted to a digital event due to the coronavirus pandemic. That essentially left Star Theory with nowhere to turn. The studio’s founders decided to close the company not long after that.
The full report contains many details and quotes which help expand upon the details of the situation, but many are suggesting that Take-Two may have been upset that they could not formally acquire Star Theory Games and decided to put Star Theory in a bad situation by taking their biggest project away from them (despite no indication that Star Theory was doing anything but a great job) and encouraging as many of the studio’s employees as possible to jump ship.
Kerbal Space Program 2 is still in development by Intercept Games (the studio Take-Two established to continue the project following Star Theory Games’ loss of the license). Intercept Games recently noted that the project is being delayed until 2021 due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.