Holy Crap! Ken Levine Announces Closure of Irrational


He is closing the studio and plans to open a smaller studio within Take 2…

Wow, that seems rash and excessive at first blush, but who knows. I hope everyone outside the 15 people who got to stay are able to land on their feet. Best of luck to Ken and his new team, I look forward to seeing what they can come up with.

What about the 2 part of the Bioshock Infinite story dlc? Is it dead?

Holy cow! Did BS:I not make enough money or something? Best wishes for all the talented folks there.

I wonder how this dovetails with Ken working on the script for Logan’s Run.

No, he says they’re finishing it now. It’s irrational’s last project.

Edit: about the second Infinite DLC.

Yeah. It has a sort of icky “I built it, and therefore I shall unbuild it” vibe to it that makes me feel supremely uncomfortable for anyone who works for him now or in the future. That he takes this route over shouldering all the risk himself and leaving the company in someone else’s hands might be within his rights (maybe; I have no idea how the company’s ownership/control structure is setup), but it doesn’t feel fair to his employees.

No chance of that.

“Thanks for creating Bioshock Infinite. You’re fired.” Remind me never to work in the games industry.

That… seems weird.

I guess I don’t fully understand who owns what. Is it the case that Take-Two owns all the juicy IP associated with Irrational (like Bioshock) and that Irrational is simply a studio? Even if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be smarter/more lucrative to sell the studio (and all its assets) to take-Two and walk away to do your own thing?

I’m having trouble seeing how laying off a proven and talented team and shutting down a facility is the best option.

I’m excited for the new studio. As much as I loved the world building in the Bioshock series, I found the gameplay distracting and tiresome. I take it Irrational had grown pretty big. Hopefully most of those folks can land softly.

No kidding, I have damn near constant whiplash from trying to keep up with these capricious changes just on the sidelines. I would need a lifetime supply of antacids if I actually had to work in the industry.

So glad Levine will continue to give the gaming developemnt industry such a great reputation for future developers out there…

Yeah, I get the desire to go back to smaller projects. What doesn’t make sense to me is the unstated assumption that Irrational can’t exist without Ken Levine, which is a possibility not even raised in the letter. Especially since it even states that 2K plans to continue the BioShock series, I don’t get why they wouldn’t want to buy out his stake and keep the same development team rolling on the next sequel.

That said, look at what has happened to a bunch of well known and loved studios over the last several years as they have been sold off or otherwise acquired by larger outfits and then driven into the ground. Perhaps he does not want Irrational to go the same way and would rather wind up than sell off.

Still seems a bit odd, though.

Is it strange that they would shut down a successful studio rather than let someone else buy it? There must be value in the structure and systems in place, having a team used to working together, people already living nearby, etc?

You can argue the merits of games quality after the studio is sold off but all those people still had jobs and their families weren’t fucked over because one guy wants to make a personal change in his career. When the two doctors(forgot their names) that founded Bioware said they had enough they simply sold out. Is Bioware less now? Maybe, but hundreds of people still have jobs at least making games.

Any word on Bioshock getting a special release on PS4 and XBONE with all the DLC? That has to happen right?

Best wishes to them all. Sorry to hear, but hopefully it is for the best. Love their games.

Preserving the announcement for when the site inevitably goes dead:

A Message From Ken Levine

When Jon Chey, Rob Fermier and I founded Irrational Games seventeen years ago, our mission was to make visually unique worlds and populate them with singular characters.

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.

Now Irrational Games is about to roll out the last DLC for BioShock Infinite and people are understandably asking: What’s next?

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.*

What’s next?

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.

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. After all, they’re the ones who believed in and supported BioShock in the first place.

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.

We do our best to update an FAQ in this space as questions come in.

-Ken Levine

*If you’re a 3rd party interested in interviewing some of the best game developers in the world, please contact [email protected]

Yeah, this is bullshit. He started the studio and he had a responsibility to all those people working under him. If he wanted to do something else, he could always sell it, or pull himself out of the day to day and just sit on the board.