‘Bioshock Infinite’ Developer Closes as Studio Head Begins New Start-Up
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 09:02
An open letter from Ken Levine on Irrational Games’ website revealed on Tuesday that the studio is no more. The 17-year-old company is best known for System Shock 2 and its spiritual successors — “Bioshock” and “Bioshock Infinite.”
The news comes as quite a surprise to the games industry, as Irrational’s parent company Take-Two Interactive along with Levine were able to keep the news under wraps.
“I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it,” Levine stated in his letter. “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.”
It’s also surprising when you consider the company’s track record, though as of this writing it appears the closure of the studio has less to do with finances and more to do with talent. Both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite were major financial and critical successes for Take- Two, and the closure leaves the future of the franchise a mystery.
The Bioshock franchise currently belongs to Take- Two Interactive and future games could be hired out to other developers.
“Bioshock 2,” a direct sequel to the original game — as well as its downloadable expansion “Minerva’s Den” — was not developed by Irrational Games, but by 2K Marin (since then, that studio has also been shut down). The sequel was very divisive with some sites like Joystiq calling its conception “creatively bankrupt” while others (myself included) found it superior to the original.
“Bioshock Infinite,” which released early last year, still has one more planned expansion to be finished by Irrational. After that, the studio will shut down. Levine, however, will not be leaving the publisher.
“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. 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.”
From the outside looking in, it appears that Levine wanted to leave Irrational Games in favor of a new endeavor. Seeing the “face” of the company leave the studio, it appears (though has not been confirmed) that Take-Two decided to break up the developer entirely, rather than let it go on without Levine.
A massive campaign of support has already cropped up online, with the Twitter hashtag “#IrrationalJobs” springing up to draw the attention of former studio members to other industry jobs. This is a common trend, with a similar campaign having started over the closure of 38 Studios (“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning”) in 2012.
Fortunately, Take-Two isn’t simply throwing its employees out on the street.
“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,” Levine’s letter continues. “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.”
And, as is usually the case with these sorts of layoffs, many of Irrational Games’ staff will likely go on to create their own independent studios. We won’t know the full extent of the fall-out until we hear more from Take-Two and the rest of the Irrational staff, but obviously we wish all involved the best.