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Prytania Media Saga Continues With Shutdown Of Possibility Space

Possibility Space

Possibility Space, a Prytania Media-owned game studio, has shut down. This follows in the footsteps of Crop Circle Games, also owned by Prytania, which had layoffs and furloughs in February and officially shut down in late March.

“I (and all my coworkers) just lost my job at Possibility Space,” tweeted Brendan McLeod, a senior gameplay designer at the studio. On Linkedin, gameplay director Russell Petersen claimed the studio was “closed this morning without notice.”  IP Director Austin Walker tweeted what we’re all thinking: “lol. Lmao.”

According to Polygon reporter Nicole Carpenter, in a statement to staff from Possibility Space owner Jeff Strain, the closure is due to "a result of the cancellation of the publishing agreement and after careful consideration." We'll come back to this in a second.

Prytania previously owned four studios: Possibility Space, Crop Circle Games, Fang & Claw, and Dawon Entertainment. Crop Circle’s shutdown, which happened alongside broader layoffs at Prytania, included former staff claiming they didn’t receive severance and had to sign away labor rights in exchange for continued healthcare. 

Last week, former Prytania CEO Annie Delisi Strain (wife of Jeff Strain) updated Crop Circle’s now-deleted website with a lengthy message in response to a forthcoming article by Kotaku reporter Ethan Gach, citing health issues and trouble finding investors for Crop Circle’s game as reasons for the studio’s shutdown. Strain expressed anxiety that Gach was going to report out her private health issues, a claim that Gach refuted on Linkedin. 

In his statement to staff today, Jeff Strain also cited Gach's reporting, writing that he was "stunned to see" among Gach's questions "non-public information about Project Vonnegut, disclosure of our publishing partner with details of our business and financial relationship, and details of internal P&L discussions and confidential all-company meetings. Mr. Gach specifically credits current employees as the source of his information."

Strain writes that "leaks of this nature are typically malicious and done by outside hacking," and given Prytania's

strict confidentiality and notification obligations, I immediately got on a plane for in-person meetings with our publishing partner to disclose the information breach and to discuss the impact on the project. During that discussion our partner expressed low confidence they would be willing to invest the additional resources needed to complete the game, so we mutually agreed to cancel Vonnegut.

It is absolutely mind-bending to see the owner of a company express such poor media literacy as to see staff talking to reporters as some kind of hack or data breach. It's even more mind-bending to see both Strains seem to blame Gach for their behavior.

Here is where the disclosures go: lots of people involved in this are friends of Aftermath, including Walker, Gach, and Prytania’s previously laid-off communications director Elise Favis. So even acknowledging that things are tough across game development right now, I’m not going to pretend to be a neutral observer of this news. It sucks to see your friends lose their jobs. It also sucks to see your friends who, against all odds, still have jobs be maligned for doing those jobs. No doubt the Streisand effect will be in full force once Kotaku's article actually publishes, and we'll see what the next stage of this saga brings.  

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