On 19th July 2016, Playdead co-founder Dino Patti announced that he was leaving the company after 9 years at the studio. The announcement came just a month after the successful launch of the studio’s second game INSIDE, which was critically acclaimed. While it was surprising that Dino Patti was leaving the studio he helped create, and so soon after a successful game launch, it appeared that there was no bad blood involved and that Patti simply wanted “to seek new challenges”. Upon leaving Playdead, Patti sold his share of the company to fellow co-founder Arnt Jensen, granting him full ownership of the studio.
However, a Danish financial report has revealed the messy power struggle that was happening at Playdead that ultimately forced Dino Patti to leave. Please note that the below report the result of a rough translation, and I apologize in advance for any inaccuracy. The article will be updated in the future should any further clarification be required.
The feud dates back to 2015 when Patti began to show dissatisfaction at the rate which Jensen was producing new games. Patti believed that Jensen was taking too much time (“4 to 6 years”) to develop each game. Disagreement on the company’s direction led to a fall out between the two partners, and they communicated exclusively through their lawyers and emails. On November 10th 2015, Jensen voiced his frustration about working with Patti and how he wanted to “find other ways to continue my creative activities”.
Patti initially panicked over Jensen’s apparent decision to quit working at Playdead, but Patti then contacted his lawyer to remove Jensen as a Director of Playdead from the Central Business Register (CVR) of Denmark by citing Jensen’s intention to resign from the company. Jensen and his lawyers naturally disagreed, and instead claimed it was all a “misunderstanding” and that Jensen meant he would step down as a “creative director” and not as the company director or co-owner.
Patti was then required by the Danish Business Authority (DBA) to submit documentation that supported the removal of Jensen from the CVR. The deadline for the documentation kept being delayed by Patti’s lawyers. In December 2015, the DBA decided that Patti had to leave Playdead due to continued disagreement between the two parties that disrupted the company, and possibly due to Patti’s failure to comply with the documentation order.
Just before the launch of INSIDE, Jensen bought out Patti’s 49% share of the company for 50 million Danish krone (~ USD$7.2 million), giving Jensen complete ownership of Playdead. Patti has voiced his dissatisfaction with the settlement, believing the amount he received was under-valued and that he would have preferred to “exchange the compensation (he) got for (his) shares, with an amicable solution where (he) was still director”.
It is always sad to see the in-fighting that can happen in any company, but with an indie studio and between two co-founders who worked with each other from the very beginning, you know this became personal at some point. In fact, Dino Patti has likened the entire ordeal to a bitter divorce essentially, and that he took it “very personally”. I have reached out to Patti on Twitter to hopefully get his perspective and clarification on what happened.