Private Division: PS5 and Xbox Series X/S transition ‘less painful’ as publisher signs four new deals

Private Division today announced four new publishing partnerships, adding to a group of developers that includes the studios behind Kerbal Space Program and OlliOlli World.

Among them, Yellow Brick Games, the Quebec studio founded in part by Mike Laidlaw, who is best known for his work on the Dragon Age series. Private Division has also signed deals with Piccolo Studio, the Barcelona company behind Arise; Evening Star, which is working on an “entirely original 3D action platformer”, and Die Gute Fabrik, which recently produced Mutazione.

The new deals mark Private Division’s steady evolution from an independent publisher to what it hopes will be some sort of prestige label. According to VP of Marketing Tom Bass, Private Division is motivated to work with “some of the greatest creative talent in the industry.”

The biggest games of 2022

Evening Star is emblematic of the studios that Private Division is looking to work with in 2022. The studio is a darling among retro fans, having been founded by several key members of the Sonic Mania development team, including Australian programmer Christian Whitehead . The studio uses a more powerful version of Whitehead’s pixel art game engine, which Sonic Mania helped make famous.

Meanwhile, Bass says Private Division was drawn to Yellow Brick Games because “we really wanted another RPG”, calling it a gap that needed to be filled. Yellow Brick Games is currently working on an action RPG in a fantasy setting with a focus on “emergent systems” that will help it create a “rich, interactive world”.

As for Piccolo Studio, it caught the attention of Private Division due to strong word-of-mouth offering Arise: A Simple Story, “an emotional journey of losing the love of one’s life”.

“Part of the reason we were drawn to Piccolo Studio is that we started hearing about Arise when it started getting nominated for Game of the Year categories,” Bass said.

An easier console transition

A subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive originally founded in 2017, Private Division provides support to smaller studios based on where it believes it can “add value”, whether in marketing, production or distribution.

In the five years since its inception, Private Division has witnessed the acquisition fever that gripped the video game industry. One of the first games he worked on was Obsidian’s Outer Worlds, which was announced less than a month after Microsoft acquired the popular indie RPG studio. It has also acquired its own studios, adding developer OlliOlli World Roll7 to its stable in 2021.

There’s a lot of consolidation going on right now, and I think in a few years we’ll see the pendulum swing the other way.

Murray calls the recent trend, which has seen Xbox acquire Activision Blizzard and Sony gobble up Bungie, “cyclical.”

“I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and I step back and look at the cyclical nature of things and how it went before,” Murray said. “Right now there’s a lot of consolidation going on, and I think in a few years we’ll see the pendulum swing the other way, and we’ll probably see a bunch of new indie studios thriving, and then they’ll build some cool IP and then those will be acquired and they’ll create new independent studios and so on, so it feels like right now we’re definitely in a consolidation phase, and the prices of things are going up astronomically and c is pretty amazing to watch.”

Amid all of this, Murray says Private Division will try to continue to be a “viable source of funding and publishing partner” for studios looking to bring their game to market. As of today, Murray says, Private Division’s portfolio performed “very well”, which shows the publisher that it is “on the right track”.

Since Private Division opened, Xbox and Sony have also launched new consoles, which are now in their second full year. Private Division released OlliOlli World on Xbox Series X/S and PS5 last month, but like most publishers, it also actively continued to support older consoles.

“Before, there was this difficult transition to console every five years,” Bass says, “and that would be very painful for developers and very painful for publishers. It’s become less and less of a case.”

Bass says Private Division still sees “a lot of demand” for Xbox One and PS4 games, and the publisher intends to support them through next year. “We always publish on [PS4 and Xbox One] because it makes sense, because the transition is not as difficult as it has been in the past.”

Bass also credits programs like Xbox Smart Delivery and Backward Compatibility Technology for a smoother transition. Murray, meanwhile, acknowledges that “even trying to find a PS5 is a challenge” due to supply chain disruptions and other issues.

Private Division’s next release, Kerbal Space Program 2, is currently set to appear on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5, having suffered several delays since its announcement in 2019. In 2020, original developer Star Theory shut down as much of the Kerbal Space Program 2 development team moved to the Private Division Interceptor Games Squad. This move was controversial, due to reports that Take-Two was looking to acquire Star Theory before the shutdown.

“Private Division has opened its own studio, Intercept Games, to bring development of Kerbal Space Program 2 to our beloved, in-house owned KSP franchise,” Private Division said in a statement at the time. “In doing so, we are empowering our deeply passionate and talented team to focus on quality, and we are thrilled with the progress they are making on the game.” Kerbal Space Program 2 is due out later this year.

In the meantime, Private Division’s four new partners are working on new games, all of which are “in early development”. The first of these is expected to launch in Take-Two’s 2024 fiscal year.

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Kat Bailey is senior news writer at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have any advice? Send him a DM at @the_katbot.