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Steam the Southfield mystery (or the 2K Private Division funded titles you likely had no idea existed)

Krvavi Abadas

Mr. Archivist

so this interesting game popped up at the PC Gaming Show yesterday, seemed like a relatively normal indie game. but then the PRIVATE DIVISION logo appeared at the end.

particularly unusual considering that studio has been having numerous issues over the past few weeks, and is likely going to be sold off. so i had to figure out what was going on.

looking up the developer name lead to a press release mentioning the "Private Division Development Fund", which Radical Forge was part of alongside two other teams. (notably, the news that Bloober Team's next game was at one point going to be published by Private Division is the main focus of the article.)
his fund provides a new vehicle to support projects from smaller developers with project financing and to empower these teams to self-publish their games. The label has committed to supporting several developers in bringing their creative visions to life under the Private Division Development Fund, including Die Gute Fabrik, Radical Forge, and Lost Native.

Die Gute Fabrik's game was Saltsea Chronicles, released back in October 2023. the info is fairly hidden, being mentioned twice on the official Private Division twitter and buried in the game's credits as "Financing & Production Support".
more concerningly. the dev team more or less shut down 4 months later due to being unable to fund their next project. suggesting the "development fund" might have already stopped prior to the other issues at Private Division.

and Lost Native's project is Wild Country, a "cozy competitive strategy game" that's still in active development like Southfield is.

the Private Division logo makes another appearance in the trailer, but their Twitter once again only made 2 tweets about it.
Southfield? the account only posted about it once.

putting the promotion & marketing entirely on the indie studios is one thing, particularly with the advantages of the agreement (as noted, the developer is able to self-publish the game rather than being under the label.) but it's still utterly bizarre to have a AAA publisher like 2K get involved with these games and never mention them.
“Competition in the independent space has exploded, says Private Division’s head of business development, Blake Rochkind. “There’s increased competition with other publishers. We’ve seen equity financing become a bigger and bigger part of this industry, especially in the past two years. We’ve seen other financing vehicles and project financing become viable and attractive. Frankly, more and more developers, especially on the smaller scale, are choosing to go the alternate paths and self publish. That’s one of the reasons why we’re super excited about the Private Division Development Fund. It’s really important to us to not be in any sort of position where we’re turning down great opportunities and great games. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of smaller games that we thought had tremendous potential, but were just frankly, too small for our model."

The simplest way to describe the Private Division Development Fund, according to Worosz, is with what essentially amounts to a quick slogan:

“Informed venture capital. A lot of times VC is making 100 bets in the hopes that one might pay out. We’re not venture capitalists. When a shareholder buys Take-Two stock, they’re not looking to buy an option or a piece of ownership in a VC fund. They’re looking to own a piece of a publisher that’s making and shipping games. What we’re doing here is we’re investing in opportunities, but with an informed view, because we ourselves have made games, we’ve shipped games and we’ve marketed games. I think that that’s a differentiator in comparison to other types of investments.
from an MCVUK interview

what we're basically left with is a trio of indie games attached to a dying publishing label, which said label barely promoted even when they weren't having issues. one of which is likely to release after the publisher is fully shutdown/sold off.

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