In a surprise move Ken Levine has announced that Irrational Games, best known for the Bioshock series, is going to be shutting down after 17-years of producing titles.
Levine posted the announcement on Irrational’s official site, saying:
“We built Rapture and Columbia, the Von Braun and The Rickenbacker, the Freedom Fortress and some of the nastiest basements a SWAT team ever set foot into. We created Booker and Elizabeth, the Big Daddy and the Little Sister, MidWives and ManBot. In that time, Irrational has grown larger and more successful than we could have conceived when we began our three-person studio in a living room in Cambridge, MA. It’s been the defining project of my professional life.”
But now Levine is apparently choosing to move on, his plan to create a new, smaller and more focused studio.
“I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it. I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two. That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team”
“Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one. And working with the incredible team at Irrational Games is indeed the best job I’ve ever had. While I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we’ve done before.”
Of course naturally there’s concern about those who aren’t moving on with Levine, people who are now out of work, but Levine was keen to stress that they’re going to do everything they can for them:
“Besides financial support, the staff will have access to the studio for a period of time to say their goodbyes and put together their portfolios. Other Take-Two studios will be on hand to discuss opportunities within the company, and we’ll be hosting a recruiting day where we’ll be giving 3rd party studios and publishers a chance to hold interviews with departing Irrational staff.”
So what’s next? Well:
“In time we will announce a new endeavor with a new goal: To make narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable. To foster the most direct relationship with our fans possible, we will focus exclusively on content delivered digitally.”
Levine was apparently contemplating starting his new company from scratch, stating:
“When I first contemplated what I wanted to do, it became very clear to me that we were going to need a long period of design. Initially, I thought the only way to build this venture was with a classical startup model, a risk I was prepared to take.” Luckily for him, though, this won’t be the case. ” But when I talked to Take-Two about the idea, they convinced me that there was no better place to pursue this new chapter than within their walls. After all, they’re the ones who believed in and supported BioShock in the first place.”
In Levine’s final paragraph not only does he thank fans, but he also reveals that he’ll be handing over the reigns to the Bioshock franchise to 2K:
“Thanks to Irrational and 2K’s passion in developing the games, and the fans who believe in it, BioShock has generated retail revenues of over a half billion dollars and secured an iconic place in gaming. I’m handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative. If we’re lucky, we’ll build something half as memorable as BioShock.”
Well, I don’t know about you but I’m sure surprised. This news came out of nowhere, and naturally my thoughts are largely focused on those who will now find themselves out of work. However, I do believe there’s a good chance 2K may attempt to snatch many of them up and set them working on the next Bioshock game, of which there will most assuredly be.
As for Levine and those moving on, I’m interested in seeing what they can produce. Creating games with strong narratives and replay value has long been one of the hardest tasks within the industry. I’m taking Levine’s words to mean that they may attempt to create a game with hefty emphasis on choice and consequences, so that it’s possible to replay the game multiple times with radically different storylines and outcomes.
R.I.P. Irrational Games.