Tencent buying majority stake in Don’t Starve maker Klei Entertainment

Chinese tech giant Tencent will purchase a majority stake in Klei Entertainment, the Canadian indie developer behind Don’t Starve, studio founder Jamie Cheng announced Friday on the company’s official forums.

“As part of this agreement,” Cheng wrote, “Klei retains full autonomy of creative and operations across all aspects of the studio, including projects, talent, and more.” Cheng cited “a changing industry” as a major factor in his decision.

Klei was first profiled here at Polygon in 2013. The company rose to prominence that same year with the release of Don’t Starve, a quirky survival game with a playful art style. The game eventually evolved into Don’t Starve Together, which added multiplayer and other features to the experience. Cheng founded Klei in 2005 in Vancouver, British Columbia; the studio’s other games include 2010’s Shank and 2012’s Mark of the Ninja.

Don’t Starve Together is actually where Klei’s relationship with Tencent began. In 2016, Klei partnered with the company to bring Don’t Starve Together to China, where the game has been wildly successful. Notably, it was the very first game to launch on the WeGame platform, Tencent’s equivalent of Steam.

“We looked at a lot of different companies,” Cheng said in the post, “and over the years, we’ve worked with a large number of publishers and distributors. Tencent is the only company that we felt would let us retain the level of control that we demand.”

Cheng added that the experience for players in North America should be unchanged after Tencent acquires the majority stake in Klei, while those in China will begin receiving “better support” due to the purchase.

This is far from the first time that Tencent, the world’s largest distributor of video games, has made an investment in Western developers and publishers. The massive Chinese company owns Riot Games (League of Legends), and has investments in Epic Games (Fortnite), Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, World of Warcraft), Paradox Interactive, Roblox, and many others. Tencent is also invested in gaming-adjacent technology companies like Discord and Reddit. Revenue from these investments has helped founder “Pony” Ma Huateng become the wealthiest man in China, according to a 2017 report.