Private Division Development Fund reaffirms label’s small-scale push

It’s been a busy day at Private Division. The company unveiled Piccolo Games’ After Us at The Game Awards last week and followed that up today by announcing a new survival horror IP with Bloober Team and the Private Division Development Fund, an ongoing funding and mentoring program aimed at smaller indie developers .

And in the midst of making all those plans, it’s also time to look back and celebrate the fifth anniversary.

To mark the occasion, speaks with Private Division head and Take-Two chief strategy officer Michael Worosz, and Private Division head of business development Blake Rochkind about the label’s business strategy, partnerships and focus on smaller studios.

Top of mind is the Private Division Development Fund, which remains an insistence on working with smaller developers than the label discussed with us in March.

The fund aims to provide smaller developers with mentorship and financial support from the Private Division team. The initiative will take place annually and is described as another funding source for game creators to use.

“We wanted to set up this fund as another way to make sure we don’t pass on something great”

Blake Rochekind

Rochkind explains: “We see a lot of great games and we’ve seen a lot of great pitches from smaller, maybe less proven developers than we normally work with. But [they] still had huge potential and so we wanted to create this fund as another way to make sure we don’t pass on anything great.”

He adds that the program is aimed at game studios focused on self-publishing their games. Some of the fund’s criteria include income potential and the studio’s ability to self-publish.

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Rochkind notes that the program is also an opportunity to increase diversity and inclusion within the games industry.

“It’s hard for people to get that initial funding and we’re proud of the fact that two-thirds of that [our] initial developers are led by women,” he says.

From left to right, Michael Worosz, Blake Rochkind

Worosz emphasizes that the Private Division Development Fund has not set any targets for the number of projects or studios to be supported.

And while the fund will of course provide funding, Worosz believes the true value it provides isn’t quite measured in dollars and cents.

“There are many places in funding pools for developers to go,” says Worosz. “They can move into venture capital now and move into later stage private equity. They can raise small business loans or government funding.

“But if they want expert help and advice that aligns with the team? It’s a good source of capital that is important for Private Division to help develop a brand.”

“I think game development is definitely not a straight line”

Michael Worosz

Of course, game development doesn’t always go according to plan, and Private Division’s expertise hasn’t stopped it from delaying titles here and there.

“I think game development is definitely not a straight line,” he acknowledges, noting that working from home and COVID-19 has made cross-platform development more complex.

The stream of game releases is something Private Division needs to deal with. Despite the variety of titles the label is working on, Worosz says it’s not trying to release games around the same time as “that would be self-defeating.”

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“And we’re also aware of what Rockstar, Take-Two could do in the market as well, and we want to give each release its room degree.”

Game release scheduling is something Private Division is getting more experience with these days, as Rochkind says the staff has grown to the point that it can handle the publishing duties for four or more titles a year.

It’s not just Take-Two’s titles that should be considered. The wealth of competition in the industry – a fact of life reinforced by the many games unveiled alongside After Us at The Game Awards – can’t help but shape Private Division’s strategy.

Rochkind explains, “There’s a lot of games coming out, we welcome that competition, we’re motivated by the competition. But I think we recognize that there’s competition, whether it’s with other publishers or other means of funding.”

That influenced his business strategy to work with smaller studios, including Bloober Team and Piccolo Studio.

“We want to double down on a proven developer who had success,” says Worosz. “We want to empower them with a development budget, a professional marketing effort and for them to take your game to the next level.”

It’s something many indie publishers aspire to, but not every indie publisher has the backing of a company the size of Take-Two.

“We think we have the financial balance to make the development investments we need and make sure every game becomes successful with the right amount of marketing behind it,” says Worosz.

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