Last night, at around 21:00, the official Irrational Games Twitter account asked people to read an important message over on their website. That message was a letter penned by the studio head and father of the BioShock series, Ken Levine; in it he announced that he was shutting down Irrational Games.
“I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it,” Levine explained 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. 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.”
The news is both saddening and perhaps a little exciting at the same time. It’s sad because Irrational Games was one of the best development teams when it came to producing thought-provoking shooters. Levine and his team had an incredible ability to build unforgettable worlds that had more character than the unforgettable characters that populated them. Testament to this is the fact that the BioShock series generated over half a billion dollars in sales.
The excitement, however, is what’s next for Levine and his now very tiny team. Instead of striking out and hitting the Kickstarter scene, 2K’s parent company, Take-Two, has convinced Levine to keep his team in-house. That’s exciting for two reasons: first of all Take-Two clearly has the utmost faith in Levine to produce something new and interesting. Second of all, Take-Two has mountains of cash (thanks to GTA V) to fund whatever it is that Levine may want to make. That last bit has not been alluded to in Levine’s letter at all, but is rather me reading into the situation.
“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,” Levine stated. “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.”
That emphasis is ours, and what it is emphasising is a welcomed highlighting by Levine. While whatever they end up making will be released on a purely digital level, they’re not attempting to get into the mass market appeal.
As for the BioShock intellectual property, Levine has handed over the reins to publisher 2K so that the franchise can continue. As far as Levine’s involvement with BioShock is concerned: that will end with the final release of the two-part DLC “Burial at Sea”.