'I assume we will part on good terms,' says the Polish studio's CEO.
(Image credit: People Can Fly)
People Can Fly began as a Polish studio, still best-known for the bombastic FPS Bulletstorm, before going through various investments and expansions across the 2010s, including being owned by Epic Games for a short time. It has ballooned to the extent it now employs 550 people with offices in Warsaw, Rzeszow, Lodz, Krakow, Newcastle, New York, Chicago, Montreal, and Toronto.
Strange thing is that it’s still known for Bulletstorm, which first released in 2011. That’s because it spent most of the subsequent years co-developing, doing Gears of War: Judgement and working on Fortnite with Epic, before 2021 saw the release of Outriders with publisher Square Enix. The live service looter-shooter didn’t meet expectations, probably because it was a little dull next to the competition, and so eyes turn to the upcoming Project Dagger.
Which has just lost its publisher. People Can Fly has issued an oddly worded statement saying that it “expects that its co-operation with Take-Two Interactive will come to an end” and spinning Project Dagger being self-published as a positive.
People Can Fly says “it has received from Take-Two Interactive a letter of intent to terminate the development and publishing agreement by means of mutual understanding between the parties. This agreement pertains to Project Dagger, new action-adventure IP, that has been in development for the last two years.”
Project Dagger remains in development at People Can Fly’s New York studio, and the statement goes on to say that Take-Two has not yet agreed settlement terms—under which People Can Fly may be liable to repay advance money—and has declined to exercise an option to acquire the rights to the game via a buy out.
“Consequently, People Can Fly has retained the intellectual property rights to the Project Dagger as the sole owner of these rights and is now determined to grow the project on its own.”
“I assume we will part on good terms,” writes Sebastian Wojciechowski, CEO of People Can Fly, “and I don’t see reasons why we couldn’t work with Take-Two on some other project in the future.” That is one hell of a way to begin a public statement. Take Two CEO Strauss Zelnick is known as something of a tough cookie within the industry, abrasive to work with even, and it certainly seems that People Can Fly has been somewhat blindsided by this announcement.
“We strongly believe in the Project Dagger’s potential and are now committed to continue its development within our self-publishing pipeline,” continues Wojciechowski. “The game is still in pre-production—our team is now focusing on closing combat and game loops and migrat[ing] from UE4 to UE5. I’m conscious that this decision will add investments on us, but self-publishing is part of our strategy. Of course, we are not ruling out working with a new publisher if this creates a compelling business opportunity.”
People Can Fly has a total of seven projects on the go, all of which have codenames. Gemini is a new game being published by Square Enix; Project Bifrost and Project Victoria are titles the studio will self-publish; Project Red is a game still in the concept phase; Green Hell VR is one of two VR projects, the other of which is based on an existing game from the group’s portfolio. This means it’s almost certainly either Painkiller VR or Bulletstorm VR, with the latter the likelier candidate.
People Can Fly was founded in February 2002, making this year the studio’s 20th anniversary. Take Two’s withdrawal from Project Dagger is hardly the most auspicious way to celebrate, and even though business is business it does seem like the publisher hasn’t gone about ending the agreement in the most upfront way. People Can Fly clearly has faith in Project Dagger and one can only hope, after the slight misfire of Outriders, we eventually have a good reason to call it something other than the Bulletstorm studio.
Rich is a games journalist with 15 years’ experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as “[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike.”