Studio Wildcard

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Wildcard Properties, LLC
Studio Wildcard
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
FoundedOctober 2014; 8 years ago (2014-10)
Founders
  • Doug Kennedy
  • Jesse Rapczak
  • Jeremy Stieglitz
  • Susan Browning Stieglitz
Headquarters,
US
Key people
Doug Kennedy (CEO)
ProductsArk: Survival Evolved
Number of employees
35 (2016)
ParentSDE Inc.
Websitestudiowildcard.com

Wildcard Properties, LLC (trade name: Studio Wildcard) is an American video game developer with offices in Redmond, Washington, and Gainesville, Florida.[1] The company was founded in October 2014 by Doug Kennedy, Jesse Rapczak, Jeremy Stieglitz, and Susan Browning Stieglitz. Stieglitz had previously left his position at Trendy Entertainment in August 2014 under a one-year non-compete agreement. The company sued him and Studio Wildcard in December 2015 for breach of contract, among other allegations, and the parties settled in April 2016. Studio Wildcard's debut game, Ark: Survival Evolved, was released in August 2017. A sequel, Ark II, was announced in December 2020.

History[edit]

Jeremy Stieglitz and Augi Lye founded the developer Trendy Entertainment in 2009. In September 2013, after being publicly accused of creating a hostile work environment, Stieglitz's role within the company was reduced to president of NomNom Games, a minor subsidiary of the studio. In April 2014, he notified the management of Trendy Entertainment and its primary investor, Insight Venture Partners, that he intended to leave the company because he could not trust or work with certain employees at the company. At the time, Stieglitz was subject to a non-compete agreement, barring him from competing with and hiring employees from Trendy Entertainment for three years. Pursuant to an agreement signed in July that year, Stieglitz was bound to Trendy Entertainment until August 15, 2014, with the length of his non-compete agreement in turn reduced to one year. Stieglitz consequently left the company that August, stating that he would take a break before re-entering the video game industry. According to Trendy Entertainment, Stieglitz had been secretly approaching the company's staff with the prospect of joining a new video game studio, so the company's lawyers reminded him of the non-compete agreement on August 18, 2014.[2][3]

Stieglitz founded Studio Wildcard (legally Wildcard Properties, LLC) in October 2014.[2][3] It was incorporated as a limited liability company under the jurisdiction of Florida, while offices were established in the Seattle area.[2] Doug Kennedy, Jesse Rapczak, and Susan Browning Stieglitz (Stieglitz's wife) were co-founders of the company.[3][4][5] Kennedy was appointed as Studio Wildcard's chief executive officer.[3] Legally, Browning Stieglitz was listed as the company's manager under her maiden name, Susan Browning, while Stieglitz was not listed.[2][3] In December 2015, Snail Ark Inc. (a California corporation and subsidiary of SDE Inc.) was merged into Studio Wildcard. Subsequently, three managers of the former Snail Ark Inc. became managers of Studio Wildcard, while Browning Stieglitz was removed as one.[2][6] Studio Wildcard later identified SDE Inc. as its parent company.[7] SDE Inc. has been described as an affiliate of Snail Games USA, the American branch of the Chinese video game company Snail Games.[8]

During 2015, Trendy Entertainment and its lawyers repeatedly contacted Stieglitz in regard to his involvement with Studio Wildcard, including through a cease and desist letter sent in July that year. On December 18, 2015, Trendy Entertainment filed a lawsuit against him and Studio Wildcard at Florida's Eighth Circuit Civil Court in Alachua County. The company alleged that Stieglitz had violated the non-compete agreement by establishing Studio Wildcard, developing Ark: Survival Evolved, and hiring employees from Trendy Entertainment. At the time of the lawsuit, Studio Wildcard employed six former Trendy Entertainment staffers, including two key programmers whose departure was stated to have caused "substantial damages" for Trendy Entertainment. The lawsuit further alleged that Studio Wildcard's technology used for Ark appeared "indistinguishable" to Trendy Entertainment's PlayVerse technology, and that Studio Wildcard had hired the contractor Instinct Games away from Trendy Entertainment. It also claimed that listing Browning Stieglitz under her maiden name—as opposed to her married name, which had been used for her roles in Yum Cupcakery, Sarkara Sweets, and Ingenue Avenue—had been an effort to conceal Stieglitz's role within Studio Wildcard. Insight Venture Partners filed a parallel lawsuit on February 11, 2016.[2][3]

Through the lawsuit, Trendy Entertainment sought for US$600 million in damages as well as a permanent injunction against Studio Wildcard releasing video games.[2][9] In response to the allegations, Studio Wildcard's lawyers stated that the complaint read "more like a salacious tabloid story" than a statement of the facts that would entitle Trendy Entertainment to relief under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, and that many of the allegations were "disparaging and included simply to be provocative. They are irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous."[2][3] The defense later argued that, because the non-compete clause had expired in August 2015, Trendy Entertainment had only filed the lawsuit after Studio Wildcard's December 2015 acquisition to profit from the success of Ark. They also claimed that the game could not have competed with Trendy Entertainment's products, as Ark was rated for mature audiences, was more expensive, and required better hardware to function. Furthermore, they stated that Studio Wildcard had not poached any employees, rather that some had left Trendy Entertainment prior to joining Studio Wildcard, were hired by individual founders (excluding Stieglitz), or decided to leave Trendy Entertainment on their own after learning of Studio Wildcard. Stieglitz separately stated that he had kept his involvement with Studio Wildcard secret to avoid comments from Internet trolls.[10] The parties ultimately settled for $40 million on April 13, 2016.[9][10]

By February 2016, Studio Wildcard employed 60 people at its office in Bellevue, Washington.[11] By May, there were 25 employees in Seattle and 10 in Gainesville, Florida.[10] Ark, which had been in early access since 2015, was released in August 2017.[12] For PixArk, a spin-off developed by Snail Games and announced in 2018, Studio Wildcard provided "design and technical input".[13] At The Game Awards 2018, Studio Wildcard announced Atlas, a massively multiplayer online game featuring pirates.[14][15] To develop Atlas, Studio Wildcard had set up a sister studio, Grapeshot Games, and run a one-year-long recruitment phase to ensure that the development of the game was not coming at the expense of Ark.[16] A sequel to Ark, Ark II, was announced at The Game Awards 2020.[17] Vin Diesel, who stars in Ark II, joined Studio Wildcard as "president of creative convergence" (executive producer) to oversee the game.[18]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Platform(s)
2017 Ark: Survival Evolved Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Xbox One
Ark: Survival of the Fittest Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows
2023 Ark 2 TBA

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jobs". Studio Wildcard. Archived from the original on September 16, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Clark, Anthony (March 30, 2016). "Video game developers waging real-life legal battle". The Gainesville Sun. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Schreier, Jason (March 23, 2016). "Game Studios Enter Legal Battle Over The Making Of Ark: Survival Evolved". Kotaku. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  4. ^ Brightman, James (November 14, 2017). "Ark dev: "Retail was not something we had planned to do"". GamesIndustry.biz. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Handrahan, Matthew (March 21, 2018). "Epic: The barrier between Xbox and PlayStation "will inevitably come down"". GamesIndustry.biz. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  6. ^ "Articles of Merger for Florida Limited Liability Company, L14000161311". Florida Department of State. December 15, 2015. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  7. ^ "Wildcard Properties, LLC v. Pride Games Studio et al". Justia. Archived from the original on February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 17, 2021. Filing 3: CORPORATE DISCLOSURE STATEMENT filed by Plaintiff Wildcard Properties, LLC identifying SDE Inc. as Corporate Parent. (Wheeler, Brian)
  8. ^ Schuhmann, Gerd (April 20, 2017). "ARK Survival Evolved: Der Gaming-Skandal, über den keiner spricht". Mein-MMO.de (in German).
  9. ^ a b Schreier, Jason (April 15, 2016). "Ark: Survival Evolved Developers Settle Ugly Lawsuit". Kotaku. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Clark, Anthony (May 11, 2016). "Developer of 'Ark: Survival Evolved' pays $40 million to settle lawsuit with Trendy". The Gainesville Sun. Archived from the original on December 17, 2020. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  11. ^ Makuch, Eddie (February 2, 2016). "Ark: Survival Evolved Dev Talks Frame Rate Issues, PS4 Version, Comparisons to Minecraft". GameSpot. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  12. ^ Kim, Matt (August 29, 2017). "Ark: Survival Evolved is Finally Out After Years in Early Access". USgamer. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  13. ^ Wood, Austin (January 26, 2018). "PixARK is a voxel-based spinoff of Ark: Survival Evolved". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on August 12, 2020. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  14. ^ Kuchera, Ben (December 6, 2018). "Ark Survival Evolved creators' new game is a massive pirate MMO called Atlas". Polygon. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  15. ^ Minotti, Mike (December 6, 2018). "Atlas is a new game of sailing and monsters from Ark: Survival Evolved studio". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  16. ^ Sinclair, Brendan (December 17, 2018). "Why go for a surprise launch?". GamesIndustry.biz. Archived from the original on December 22, 2018. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  17. ^ Nunneley, Stephany (December 11, 2020). "Ark 2 announced from Studio Wildcard, stars Vin Diesel". VG247. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  18. ^ Valentine, Rebekah (December 14, 2020). "Vin Diesel joins Studio Wildcard as executive producer on Ark". GamesIndustry.biz. Archived from the original on December 16, 2020. Retrieved February 17, 2021.

External links[edit]