Krafton, the parent company of PUBG Corporation, will soon become the proud new owner of Subnautica studio Unknown Worlds. Krafton stated that the acquisition will allow it to “expand its IP” and diversify its portfolio of innovative games.
Krafton’s jewel is Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, but Unknown Worlds is actually its sixth studio. It also owns the mobile studios RisingWings, Dreamotion and Bluehole, PUBG Studios, and Glen Schofield’s Striking Distance Studios. The latter is currently working on a Dead Space-style survival horror title called the Callisto Protocol, which, for some reason is set in the PUBG universe.

Charlie Cleveland, the founder of Unknown Worlds, stated in a statement that it was obvious how closely Unknown Worlds’ and Krafton were aligned in their thinking about games and game development. Subnautica and PUBG started humblely, and both have evolved through iteration and feedback. We are determined to bring new games to market, and Krafton is a great step forward. We are looking forward to the future together.

Krafton stated that Unknown Worlds would continue to function as an independent game development studio, with its current structure and leadership intact. This commitment was met with resistance from Raphael van Lierop (founder and creative director at The Long Dark studio Hinterland Games), an indie developer. He didn’t mention Unknown Worlds but stated on Twitter that it was “just not possible or truth” that independent indie studios could remain independent once they were acquired.

Van Lierop stated that indie studios now have a “relatively large” amount of freedom after an acquisition, compared to 10 to 15 years ago when smaller developers were more likely to be rolled into larger companies and then disappear. He tweeted, “But no large acquirer is buying any company and then giving them absolute independence.” They own you, your IP, you need permission to allocate resources and you can be fired if you aren’t interested in running your company anymore.

Thomas Happ, the creator of Axiom verge, replied to van Lierop with a similar comment. He noted that “indie” and “independent” are good marketing buzzwords.

Electronic Arts, the largest videogame publisher in the world, has an indie-focused publishing unit called EA Originals. Take-Two (Private Division) and Starbreeze (Starbreeze IndieLabs), are also part of this division. Van Lierop stated that it is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually a boon to many. However, it blurs the lines between what “indie” means in the public’s mind.

Krafton stated that Unknown Worlds continues to support Subnautica and Subnautica below Zero. However, Unknown Worlds is currently working on a new “genre-defining” game that will be available for early access in 2022.

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