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Major games studio abruptly shuts down, blaming leaks to video game journalist Major games studio abruptly shuts down, blaming leaks to video game journalist
A studio founded by the creator of State of Decay has closed, with its founder blaming leaks to the gaming press as the reason... Major games studio abruptly shuts down, blaming leaks to video game journalist



A studio founded by the creator of State of Decay has closed, with its founder blaming leaks to the gaming press as the reason for its shuttering.

Jeff Strain, who started Possibility Space in 2021, told all staff last week that the studio was shutting down immediately. That is per an email obtained by Polygon labor reporter Nicole Carpenter, confirming an April 12 LinkedIn post from a studio employee saying it had been abruptly shuttered.

In his email to staff, Strain specifically named an inquiry from Ethan Gach, an investigative writer for Kotaku, as the first domino setting in motion the studio’s demise. Gach, says Strain, had reached out to talk about the end of Crop Circle Games, a sister studio to Possibility Space under the Prytania Media label that Strain founded with his wife, Annie Delisi Strain, also in 2021.

“I was stunned to see non-public information about Project Vonnegut,” Strain wrote, referencing the code name for a work in development, “disclosure of our publishing partner with details of our business and financial relationship, and details of internal [profit and loss] discussions and confidential all company meetings.” Gach, said Strain, said he received those documents from someone inside Possibility Space.

“To see internal team members under a confidentiality agreement engage in this was shocking,” Strain said. He flew to meet with Possibility Space’s publishing partners in person, during which he was told they would be unwilling “to invest the additional resources needed to complete the game, so we mutually agreed to cancel [project] Vonnegut.”

All Possibility Space employees were then fired, pursuant to labor laws in their jurisdictions. Strain said he had hired a law firm to “oversee the wind-down of the studio,” and whose representatives would be contacting workers to discuss Possibility Space’s remaining obligations to them.

Whatever Kotaku was working on, it has not published that story. Crop Circle Games was closed in February and its employees furloughed. The Verge reported that Annie Delisi Strain, in a statement posted to that studio’s website (since deleted) also referenced Gach’s reporting. “I stepped down as CEO this winter on a medical leave,” she said, “and while I don’t know the content of Mr. Gach’s article, I have no assurances that my personal health struggles as a rare female game industry CEO will not be covered in his article.”

In the email shutting down Possibility Space, Jeff Strain says he is “stepping away from the game industry to focus on my family and care for Annie.”

Some former employees pushed back against the Strains’ rapidly escalating version of events surrounding both Crop Circle and Possibility Space. In a LinkedIn post, Jennifer Klasing, formerly a content designer for that studio, called Jeff Strain a “grifter” and said the studio’s leadership “has failed us, morally, ethically, and financially.”

What was Possibility Space working on?

Possibility Space’s “Project Vonnegut” was never announced, so it’s hard to say. As Strain said in his email, it had a publishing arrangement in place, or at least some understanding with a publisher that was worth a drop-everything airline flight to try to repair a relationship. It is strange, however, that a studio executive would run out the door to perform damage control for a story that might describe that relationship and hadn’t yet published.

Jeff Strain co-founded ArenaNet, the maker of GuildWars, in 2000. He started Undead Labs in 2009, and that studio launched the zombie apocalypse survival adventure State of Decay in 2013. Undead Labs was acquired by Microsoft in 2018, about four months after State of Decay 2 launched. It has since become one of several design houses in the Xbox family, developing first-party titles to launch same-day on the console’s Xbox Game Pass service.

Featured image via Ideogram





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