PUBG Corporation parent company Krafton will soon be the proud new owner of Subnautica studio Unknown Worlds. Krafton said the acquisition will help it “expand its IP and diversify the company’s portfolio of groundbreaking games.”
Playerunknown's Battlegrounds is the jewel in Krafton's crown, but Unknown Worlds will actually be its sixth studio: It also owns mobile studios RisingWings and Dreamotion, Bluehole and PUBG Studios, and Glen Schofield's Striking Distance Studios, which is currently working on a Dead Space-style survival horror game call the Callisto Protocol that, for some reason, is set in the PUBG universe.
“It was immediately apparent how closely Unknown Worlds and Krafton are aligned in the way we think about games and game development,” Unknown Worlds founder and CEO Charlie Cleveland said in a statement. “Subnautica and PUBG both started humbly and evolved successfully through constant iteration and feedback. We want to bring new games to the world stage—and with Krafton, we’re a big step closer. We’re truly looking forward to our future together.”
Krafton said Unknown Worlds will continue to “function as an independent game development studio,” with its current leadership and structure intact. That commitment met with pushback from indie developer Raphael van Lierop, founder and creative director of The Long Dark studio Hinterland Games, who didn't name Unknown Worlds specifically but said on Twitter that it's “just not possible or true” that indie studios can remain independent after they've been acquired.
What does it mean to be independent? It boils down to a few key decisions, ultimately. 1) Can you allocate company resources as you wish? 2) Can you make the projects you wish? 3) Can you shut down your own company if you wish? If you can’t do all three, you are not independent.October 29, 2021
Van Lierop said post-acquisition indie studios have a “relatively” large amount of freedom compared to 10 or 15 years ago, when small developers were much more likely to be rolled into larger organizations and disappear. “But no big acquirer is buying a company and then giving them true independence,” he tweeted. “They own you, they own your IP, you need their permission to allocate resources, and if you don't want to run your company any more, you will be replaced.”
In a reply to van Lierop, Axiom Verge creator Thomas Happ made a similar comment, noting that “independent” and “indie” are now good marketing buzzwords.
It’s interesting how “independent” and “indie” are now desirable marketing words that big companies want to use for themselves… it wasn’t always that wayOctober 29, 2021
It's true: Electronic Arts, one of the biggest videogame publishers in the world, has an indie-focused publishing division called EA Originals, as do Starbreeze (Starbreeze IndieLabs) and Take-Two (Private Division). As van Lierop said, it's not necessarily a bad thing—it's actually a boon for many—but it does blur the lines of what “indie” is in the public consciousness.
Krafton said that alongside its ongoing support for Subnautica and Subnautica: Below Zero, Unknown Worlds is also working on a new “genre-defining game” that's expected to go into early access sometime in 2022. I've reached out to Krafton for more information on