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Possibility Space closes down, founder blames staff leaks

Second Prytania Media studio to close this year

Possibility Space has become the second studio owned by Prytania Media to close in recent weeks following Crop Circle Games' closure in March. Both studios were founded by Jeff Strain, the co-founder of Guild Wars creators ArenaNet and the founder of State Of Decay developers Undead Labs.

In a message to staff about the studio's immediate closure, Strain implies the outcome was prompted by employees who leaked information about the company to a journalist.

"Late last week I received a list of topics and questions from Ethan Gach, a reporter at Kotaku, regarding an article he's writing about Prytania Media and the closure of Crop Circle Games," begins Strains layoff message to staff, as shared by Polygon journalist Nicole Carpenter.

"Much of it was expected but I was also stunned to see non-public information about Project Vonnegut, disclosure of our publishing partner with details of our business and financial relationship, and details of internal P&L discussions and confidential all-company meetings. Mr. Gach specifically credits current employees as the source of his information.

"Leaks of this nature are typically malicious and done by outside hacking, so to see internal team members under a confidentiality agreement engage in this was shocking. Given the company's own strict confidentiality and notification obligations, I immediately got on a plane for in-person meetings with our publishing partner to disclose the information breach and to discuss the impact on the project. During that discussion our partner expressed low confidence that they would be willing to invest the additional resources need to complete the game, so we mutually agreed to cancel Vonnegut."

The message goes on to say that today (April 12th) is the last day of employment for all staff, and that a final paycheck will be deposited for work up until that day. There is also no guarantee of any severance pay, with Strain writing that it will take a "few more days" to calculate the studio's remaining financial obligations and "determine what we can offer for severance."

Possibility Space was founded in 2021 as a fully remote studio, and immediately attracted known talent from throughout the industry including former Firewatch and Half-Life: Alyx lead environment artist Jane Ng, Watch Dogs: Legion designer Liz England, and former games journalist and Waypoint editor-inc-chief Austin Walker. (England and Ng had since left the company.) The studio never announced a project, but at its inception Strain told IGN they had "big ambitious goals and the resources to match those big ambitious goals."

In March, another Prytania studio, Crop Circle Games, closed down after two years of work on a prototype that "did not find financial support for further development," according to a statement released at the time.

Shortly thereafter, a further statement was released which has since been deleted but which can still be accessed via the Wayback Machine. In the message, former CEO Annie Delisi Strain also mentioned Ethan Gach, but in that instance expressed concern that she had not yet been approached for comment on an article seemingly being written about the studio for Kotaku.

Some Crop Circle staff said the studio's closure - and a furlough of some staff that preceded it - was handled in "the messiest, least respectful way imaginable," as Game Developer reported.

Prytania seemingly have two remaining studios: Fang & Claw, and Dawon Entertainment.

Undead Labs, a studio founded by Jeff Strain and then sold to Microsoft before his departure in 2019, was the subject of a Kotaku report in 2022 in which staff alleged a culture of sexism, bullying and burnout. Strain declined Kotaku's request for comment at the time, instead posting his response in his own Medium post, since deleted, but available via the Web Archive. "I stand by my leadership at the Lab, as I stand by my leadership as a co-founder of ArenaNet and founder of my new studios," Strain wrote.

Which I mention mostly because that Kotaku report was written by Ethan Gach, and I guess he's just been living in Strain's head rent free for the two years since. As of right now, Gach's apparent article about Prytania Media remains unpublished.

If it's not already obvious, companies do not typically close down because some staff allegedly spoke to a reporter, nor do publishing partners normally deny funding for that reason. Responsibility for a studio closure, regardless of cause, instead falls upon the CEO leading the studio - and implying otherwise while suddenly laying off all staff, with no guaranteed severance, is beyond shitty. In an industry currently being decimated by layoffs, it really takes something special to make you King Chode, and yet Strain has managed it.

Possibility Space staff have been tweeting about their availability for hire over the past 24 hours. The company website has been taken down but you can find the staff page on the Web Archive, as always. Possibility Space's former IP Director Austin Walker has also been tweeting about those now unemployed colleagues looking for work. Give them a look if you're in the position to hire game developers.

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