Interviews & Opinion

Why Grand Theft Auto giant Take-Two is getting into indie publishing with Private Division

Why Grand Theft Auto giant Take-Two is getting into indie publishing with Private Division

Earlier this month, Take-Two finally revealed its venture into indie publishing. After purchasing Kerbal Space Program developers in May 2017, the games giant announced its new label, Private Division. 

We caught up with head of corporate development, Michael Worosz, to find out a bit more about Take-Two's latest games division. 

What was the initial thinking behind Private Division?
We continued to meet seasoned video game creative principals who were leaving the larger studio and publishing systems to strike off on their own and develop their passion projects. These creative professionals wanted to get back to the product, the art of video game development, and away from the politics and pressures of managing 500-plus person teams.

This observation, coupled with what we see as a void between massive triple-A games and projects one could otherwise turn to crowdfunding, led us to believe there’s an opportunity for a new publishing label focused on these endeavours.

With the projects you have announced so far, and the studios you say you are working with, this looks more like a mid-tier developer than an indie one. Is that a fair assessment?
I don’t think anything we’re doing is 'mid-tier', as that connotes something that’s second-rate. There’s no such thing as successful, second-rate entertainment, as competing for people’s precious time is far too difficult and competitive. Our partners are building world-class games, each of which we’re excited to bring to the world.

What kind of projects and teams are you looking to work with?
We don’t have a mandate on specific genres, geographies or business models. It starts with a proven creative and an experienced team who are deeply passionate about their project, exactly in the same way an entrepreneur who will never be satisfied until their product or service exists in the marketplace. Then, if that vision is something to which we can add value and make more successful through our involvement, we proceed towards working out a deal.

There are a plethora of indie/smaller publishers in the market right now. What sets Private Division aside from the crowd?
Our publishing team is composed of industry veterans who have each “been there, done that,” but then we can lean into a much larger parent company in Take-Two Interactive that gives us access to a global sales and distribution organisation, quality assurance, localisation, long-standing partnerships with Microsoft, Sony, Steam and other digital and retail platforms, and licensing. The myriad other players out there lack this same level of experience and the heft of a $10bn-plus corporation behind them.

What are you offering developers? For example funding, marketing, PR support... 
Private Division publishing deals generally entail that we fund development and marketing costs, but cash is fungible. The difference between our capital and someone else’s is a production team that will embed themselves into an outside studio to help make a product better because of that producer’s pedigree in working on some of the most successful games over the last decade. And a marketing team who will craft a strategy to get to market by working with a developer to ensure we represent their vision in an authentic way.

Who retains IP with Private Division projects?
With the exception of Kerbal Space Program, which we acquired earlier this year, our studio partners own the underlying IP, and we have long-term rights to develop sequels against these IPs.

Why announce now? Kerbal Space Program aside, the first project from Private Division isn’t going to be out until the 2020 fiscal year.
We have new console releases for Kerbal Space Program shipping next month, with the franchise’s first expansion around the corner. Plus, as game development is sometimes described as entering into a long, dark tunnel without much light from the public shining in, our studios were incredibly excited to start to talk about their games and working with Private Division. These factors together made the timing of our announcement make sense.

What’s the ambition for Private Division?
Our ambitions are two-fold in the spirit of the two constituencies we serve: to come to signify the highest quality independent video game experiences in the minds of consumers, and to become the go-to option for the world’s best game developers to help bring their projects to life.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.