BioShock creator Irrational Games is shutting down

Irrational Games cofounder Ken Levine confirms all but about 15 people will lose their jobs as he starts up a "smaller, more entrepreneurial" endeavor for Take-Two.

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Irrational Games, creator of the BioShock series, is effectively shutting down. Cofounder Ken Levine revealed the news in an update on the developer's website today. The industry veteran will start a new endeavor for Irrational Games owner Take-Two Interactive, while all but around 15 staffers will be out of a job. It is unclear how many people Irrational Games employed at its Quincy, Mass. office.

"I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it," Levine said. "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. There’s no great way to lay people off, and our first concern is to make sure that the people who are leaving have as much support as we can give them during this transition."

To that end, Irrational Games will offer "financial support" to employees affected by the move, as well as the possibility to meet with other Take-Two studios to discuss future employment. Irrational Games will also host a recruiting day where third-party studios and publishers can meet with outgoing Irrational Games developers.

Levine's new project will be announced "in time," he said. The goal for the new endeavor will be to "make narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable." Whatever form this new project ends up taking, it will be digitally delivered, he added.

"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," Levine said. "To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience."

"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," he added. "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."

Levine's last BioShock-related project is the two-part BioShock Infinite Burial at Sea campaign. The first episode arrived in November, while the second debuts on March 25. It is unclear what this announcement means for the future of BioShock for the PlayStation Vita. We've reached out to Irrational Games and Take-Two for comment.

The entire BioShock universe is now in 2K's hands, Levine said, though no new installments have been announced beyond BioShock Infinite and BioShock for PS Vita.

"I'm handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative," Levine said. "If we're lucky, we'll build something half as memorable as BioShock."

Discussion

824 comments
rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

i wish BioWare shares the same fate at some point...Especially if they don't manage to deliver with DA 3 then they certainly deserve to be swallowed by EA like Take-Two does with Irrational .. That being said Irrational really didn't deserve such fate. BioShock and BioShock Infinite were brilliant games (yes i skip BioShock 2 on purpose) and even if Irrational was pushed to the wall by Take-Two they still remained quite real to their goal and Levine lead the game to the best possible presentation given the time he was given opposed to the one he asked. So it really saddens me to see this outcome. And this is the difference with BioWare...They don't give a crap about the games anymore! If EA tells them to jump they will,if they tell them to Multiplayer-ize even the most CORE single player game they will , ALL for the sake of $$...Well let's hope Levine manages to see through his new endeavor and deliver to us more brilliant games like BioShock.

pphlws
pphlws

How did HE decide to do anything when his company is owned by Take Two? It sounds like Take Two had him make this statement to avoid backlash. It seems like this is just another case of a big game company swallowing up a smaller (and more creative) company. He already confessed that the last part of Bioshock was not as good as the rest of the game because he was not given enough time to get it right. Yet, now he make this statement: "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." They believed in him and supported him so much they wouldn't even give him time to finish Bioshock without rushing it. How is it his company if he can't even control how the games are made? Then there is the fact that he supposedly gave control over Bioshock 2 to someone else. (I'm sure that was at least part of the reason Bioshock 2 was not as good as the original.) If all that isn't enough, why did his games become so much more political, and why did the political views expressed in the games following Bioshock swing so far in one direction? Sadly, it appears as though Levine has become a sellout.

steve4123456789
steve4123456789

Was bioshock infinite a failure or something? That game restored my hope in todays game industry.

nicecall
nicecall

it must suck to be in the game industry, you get canned so quickly unless your buddys with the bosses.

HipHopBeats
HipHopBeats

Infinite was a disappointment. They should have just made a new System Shock but called it something else.

Vambran
Vambran

Hmm Digital only games with a reduced worked force? He can talk about core gaming all he wants, but it sounds like he is going the shovel ware free to play route.


tightwad34
tightwad34

I don't care about Bioshock, but I do not like to see people lose their jobs no matter what is involved(illegal business aside). I have a feeling they will be able to find work soon.

dzimm
dzimm

Well, this may be a good thing, because after Take 2 bought them, Irrational went from being one of the more innovative and creative developers in the industry to making BioShock games.  Maybe now Ken Levine can finally get around to making a follow-up to the Freedom Force series

Litchie
Litchie

I'd be sad about it if their last game wasn't BioShock Infinite. 
(cause it sucked)

rob9999991
rob9999991

Working in the gaming industry isn't all that great. Greed from large, publicly owned studios to massive layoffs all the time to more and more out sourcing. I worked in the industry for a little while but left it to do my own thing. To all the talented people who have worked in this industry and have been tossed aside all for a stronger bottom line, start your own company if you have the means to do so! Not easy in the least, but indi gaming is gaining strength and will take larger shares of the market in the not so distant future. Regardless, good luck to those who lost their jobs...and to those who will be laid off this year as well.

TheTrueObelus
TheTrueObelus

So I'm guessing Bioware Infinite cost a lot to make and wasn't as profitable as the company heads had hoped. Now the execs think the company is bloated and want to cut costs by firing folks. Except most of the key decisions about the games design were made by the same people who are firing folks. So if the game wasn't successful the people being punished are the same ones who had the least say in it's design.

josnas
josnas

When Bioshock first came out and they had used the words "system shock" in the development process, I was hoping it was going to be a successor to System Shock 2. I never got into the Bioshock series, tried them and they are just first person shooters with some cool powers and a decent story. Still when I heard Bioshock Infinite was only 5 hrs long, I saved my 60 bucks and just watched youtube videos of the cutscenes. I'm sorry but for PC electronic downloads to cost 60 bucks with no packaging and only lasting 5-6 hrs is a rip off in my opinion, you could go to the movies for 20 hrs and spend that much, or get 3 lap dances, which is also worth more than that.


What really surprises me is that it wasn't EA that killed this intellectual property, lol.

LokiHero
LokiHero

Obviously, Levine can personally do what he want.  It's his company, he created it, but to just shutter the company because he's done with large-scale development, to just fire a staff of that size because he, personally, is done and doesn't have the emotional wherewithal or whatever else to appoint a successor to maintain a successful business?

I really try not to get too vulgar on Gamespot because there are enough people who do that already, but I kind need to get this out of my system:  Ken Levine is a childish, thoughtless, self-centred mass of sun-baked coagulated santorum and I hope to God he's living in a box under a bridge after his next venture fails.

When you run a business, you don't owe the employees who help create your success much more than a paycheck and some stability, and those things are not hard to give people when you're successful.  Ken Levine is just an asshole and it will be a cold day in Hell when I buy anything with his name on it.

d-man
d-man

That's fine. It just means they'll be going Indie, which is where all the quality games are these days, anyway. If anything, Ken's presence will be a major boon to Kickstarter.


At least they managed to ship out three excellent Bioshock titles before the greedy corporate monster stepped in and put a stop to it. Shame most gamers weren't intelligent enough to appreciate true art and support them financially. It's hard to find good games with great atmosphere, combat, writing and ideology these days.

00J
00J

This doesn't surprise me. Irrational games was going the way of Peter Molyneux and his ideas... I never played any Bioshock games and never had the desire to do so, i've been curious about 1 or 2 of them but something just did not appeal to me. 

It seems a lot of people have found fun in those games but something must have been wrong because this supposedly high level developer wasn't regarded enough to keep their division open. I think the sales numbers and an I told you so probably had something to do with it. A lot of creative directors get the freedom to make decisions based on their track record. I think somewhere along the way Take-Two was saying, ahhh we don't particularly like this direction. I think Ken Levine had issues also.   Just my opinion. 

burnettaj
burnettaj

Being an employee in the gaming industry sounds tough. Make a good game one day and the next day your laid off. Almost like your freelance developer, artists etc. Hats off to the game developers as you continue to bring loads of great entertainment for us all.

djsimpson95
djsimpson95

All we could do is wait to see how this turns out. And to the 15 remaining members of Irrational Games: Would you kindly make a new game as good as Bioshock, or better ?

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

Good to see that they're at least trying to take care of the developers they're getting rid of...that and they're not truly shutting down as such - possibly a new name (sounds like he's keeping the same one though tbh), and a smaller team obviously, but it'll be mostly the same devs just working on a different title. By the sounds of it they'll still be working under Take-Two as well; and Bioshock will still be in the hands of a 2K developer too, even if it's different people (and hopefully Bioshock sequels will stop appearing in due time - they've been rather unimpressive in more recent times).


Almost just sounds like an internal reshuffling at Take-Two/2K that happens to focus around Irrational games to me - Irrational games is basically winding down (less workers, less hectic, and generally slower development), and maybe changing name, it's not really shutting down at all. Considering it started with quite a small team, you could even call it a return to their roots.

ggregd
ggregd

@rhymesmatter  I don't know how sad this is.  It's unfortunate for the people who are out of a job but they closed up voluntarily to do something else.

maityankit
maityankit

@steve4123456789  It purely wasn't. It must be 2K wants the rights of this game and put the idea into better use. Lets hope there are more and better sequels. 

SpicaAntares
SpicaAntares

@nicecall

In any industry you get canned quickly. You have to start worrying the moment you get decent wages and decent working conditions. This is usually the moment bosses start thinking about 'maximizing profits' for their masters.

pphlws
pphlws

@HipHopBeats I don't think you can copy something and just change the name. What I don't understand is why EA had to be so spiteful and stop him making a sequel to System Shock 2 when they don't even have any intention of using the name.

SpicaAntares
SpicaAntares

@Vambran

What he probably means is that, like any good boss, he will select those willing to work 60 hours per week but only get paid for 35, those with "entrepreneurial" skills, who understand that profit is for the privileged few, not for the restless many.

pphlws
pphlws

@Litchie It's interesting to hear people express such widely differing opinions about Bioshock Infinite. I actually have the game but have not been able to bring myself to play it yet. (I got it free.) Just out of curiosity, what was it that you didn't like about the game?

00J
00J

@TheTrueObelus  You don't know the real insider story. I hadn't heard anything about their next plans beyond Bioshock, that could be it also. Their prospect might have been meh...

Insane00
Insane00

@josnas It took me about 20 hours to finish. Maybe a speed run is 5-6 hours...

pphlws
pphlws

@LokiHero It might be naive for us to think that Levine made this decision. "His" company is owned by Take Two, so how can he make that decision?

zedetach
zedetach

@LokiHero  Dude you need to pay more attention to what you read. Levine clearly stated that he wished to LEAVE Take-Two to create a smaller and more focused team but was convinced otherwise by the higher ups. In other words, if he had stayed with his decision and left, Irrational would have still ended up being wound up. 

Thank God he was smart enough not to give in to the pressure of releasing yearly generic sequels like Call of Duty and instead chose to pursue his goal of creating a game that stayed true to his vision (which wasn't exactly the case with Infinite).  

More importantly, none of us know exactly what happened at Irrational that ultimately led to this outcome and as such we are the ones who are being 'childish, thoughtless and self-centred' by assuming that we do.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@LokiHero Don't know why, but I never got a good vibe from Levine. Might be the look on his face, or just the way it was constructed. He never had that "trusting look".

00J
00J

@d-man  And you don't have an opinion either, who are you to say who can be heard and who can't. I've played plenty of irrational games, just not bioshock. You are a troglodyte.

00J
00J

@burnettaj  They can get a job over night... They are not hurting for money. They made the product got paid, end of story. Why do you think most developers whose studio is shut down branch out and start their own companies. It's not because they left the last company with empty pockets... heh 


lokar82
lokar82

@burnettaj  Stuff like this is one of the many reasons I decided to be a normal programmer and not work in the games industry.

PetJel
PetJel

@robbristow `Good to see that they're at least trying to take care of the developers they're getting rid of.`

fancy words but they´ll have to wait and see how much ´care´ there will be in practise. words are words.

thehiddenl
thehiddenl

@robbristow  "hopefully Bioshock sequels will stop appearing in due time - they've been rather unimpressive in more recent times"

Yo bud, if you think bioshock infinite wasn't impressive you're in the minority. 

pphlws
pphlws

@SpicaAntares @nicecall I'm sure you miss your buddy Castro, huh? He was all about "decent wages and decent working conditions".

fmondana
fmondana

@SpicaAntares @nicecallJust once I would like to hear those on the Right or Left come up with an original thought. Regurgitating blather from either Fox or MSNBC is just sad.

00J
00J

@d-man @00J  I made my opinion. You don't have to agree turd.

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@thehiddenl @robbristow  Never said it was a bad game - on the contrary it was quite good (I played it to completion, but I have no intention of bothering to go back to it any more), but it was nothing special and it was certainly not impressive or praiseworthy when compared to the games that came before it.

Goron24
Goron24

@thehiddenl @robbristow  Yo bud, if you think that people who thought bioshock infinite wasn't impressive are in the minority you are in the minority. Almost everyone I talk to found it really boring hell even the "Other perspective" review gamespot did gave it a 4.0... 

SpicaAntares
SpicaAntares

@pphlws @SpicaAntares@nicecall

I'll miss him for sure. Here we have a third world country, a very poor one, one onto which the big Bully up north supported terrorism , tried to invade, blew up a passenger plane, poison the crops, tried many times to kill the leader. One boycotted by the big Bully up north and his allies since1962, who nonetheless managed to have free education, free health care, free medication for his population. Yes, I'll miss him for sure and so will a great part of mankind who has more than half a brain.

SpicaAntares
SpicaAntares

@fmondana @SpicaAntares@nicecall

Guess you'll have to experience it by yourself. Don't worry, sooner or later you'll have to get a job and what I said will suddenly come alive. In the meantime just ask your parents.

pphlws
pphlws

@d-man @00J@Goron24@thehiddenl@robbristowYou may have just touched on a problem with Bioshock Infinite. It may be knowing people like you injected disgusting politics into the game that put a lot of people off the game. It may also be that the game was given too much praise because people like you gave it extra points for the hatred you think it directed towards people you don't like.

zedetach
zedetach

@Goron24 @thehiddenl @robbristow  true. it was a rather dull game in terms of gameplay but its the story that the game was highly praised for. I have never been so emotionally absorbed at the end of a game in very, very long time and that alone made it worth playing.

d-man
d-man

@00J @Goron24 @thehiddenl @robbristow  Nah, it was an excellent game. Just lots of butthurt Teabaggers got their toes stepped on by Ken Levine calling them out on their BS through the medium of videogame art.

00J
00J

@Goron24 @thehiddenl @robbristow  I was turned away just from the look and concept of the game. It didn't even land in my Xbox, and I have tried and played hundreds of games...