Irrational Games Is Shutting Down – A Message From Ken Levine

For those of you who don’t know them, Irrational games is the company behind the bestselling franchise Bioshock. Ken Levine, the boss and historical founder of Irrational games, has put a post up on the official IG website, announcing that he is closing the studio,and how he’s going back to how he started.

 

Ken Levine and his partners has been with IG for 17 years, a very long time to be with one company, and he’s mighty proud of his achievements in those years.

 

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.

 

So when the final DLC for their latest game launches, IG will dissolve into nothing and Levine will be making his own, smaller 15 man company with some of the employees from IG itself.

bioshock_infinite

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.

 

So he wants to be an indie in the sense of a small studio, and direct relationship with gamers …. but without ‘independent’ part.

 

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 happening next then? Well here’s what:

 

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.

 

And now a little thankyou letter to IG staff and Take-Two:

 

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

-Ken Levine
@iglevine

*If you’re a 3rd party interested in interviewing some of the best game developers in the world, please contact chris.bigelow@2k.com

 

You don’t think about shutting your 300 man dev studio overnight, so how long was he thinking about this?At the beginning of writing DLC?(May/13)

Or maybe just after he received the Golden Joystick Award, this January. Here’s a quote from him of a recent interview, just after the Joystick Awards:

We always think of the road not taken, of something in the past. ‘Wow, what would have happened if I married so and so, or took that job in San Diego…’ But you rarely think that each and every second that goes by is one of those moments. Like this second that just happened. And that one. And the one that’s going to happen in a second.” Potentially, each of these seconds could alter a game in a profound way. Just as they can in life. The easiest thing for us to imagine is that our lives, and the story we are playing, are pre-designed, solid. But neither gaming nor life has to be like that. In both, we can alter and decide in a way that is surprising, ultimately freeing.

Read the full interview here.

If he plans on making ‘highly re-playable’ games, and seeing the quote above, maybe his next adventure will be a decision based game which alters the story as you play.

 

! Minimur12 will remember that

 

  1. BahamutBBob’s avatar

    Well, it looks like I’m probably not going to play a game directed by Ken Levine again. Infinite was a letdown, and what Indies try to do usually doesn’t interest me.

    Huge emphasis on probably and usually.

    Reply

    1. JeoWay’s avatar

      Infinite was a let down? Are you high? Have you played the game?!

      That was one of the best games I have ever played… maybe it was because I played it on PC and not with a controller with horrible graphics. Anyhow, the story is one of the best out there

      Reply

      1. Minimur12’s avatar

        I played it on my PC (laptop) with my DS4 and I couldn’t get into it, my brother bought it on steam so I had a go of it, couldn’t get into it unfortunately

        Reply

      2. xPreatorianx’s avatar

        JeoWay – I own a pretty nice gaming rig as well but I played Bioshock infinite on 360. It is an amazing game so I have no idea why that dude called it a let down. It is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played!

        Reply

  2. Ken’s avatar

    Ken Lettuce

    Reply

  3. PCGuy’s avatar

    Another reason I never became a game developer/programmer. Just not a steady/solid career. Sad how successful Irrational got to be yet is tossing away some obviously very good talent.

    Reply

  4. shapeshifter’s avatar

    This is sad just coz bioshock infinite was not upto the mark of the previous games in the series isn’t a reason to give up
    They could have just started afresh with a newer game with a better storyline

    Reply

  5. DarkenLX’s avatar

    im kinda confused so does that mean no more bioshock?
    i thought 2k games owned the rights to it. even if they are just the publisher if the studio that designs the game shuts down and the head dev abandons it the publisher can still claim rights to it. for instant Halo MS did not really own the rights to halo when bungie was making it contrary to what MS wants people to believe bungie held the rights until MS didnt want to play fair because bungie was goning to make it no longer a xbox only game. (SEE After Page break What would happen if this happened) so MS absolved/bought out bungie of any Rights and Shut them out of any more halo games and created 575 Studios or whatever the flip its named.
    ————Break——–
    (Dead Consoles Tell No Tales)
    What would have happen if halo actually Made it to other platforms/consoles? Well For one Xbone may or may not exsist simply anyone that usually buys xbox is really just waiting for halo as xbx does not really have solid exclusives like halo they are shat compared to halo. and for ms to no longer have what no one else does well demand for halo is so great if you dont need an xbox to play it then why buy one thus ending the xbox.. fact is halo its like life support for xbox.

    Reply

    1. Bullshiters’s avatar

      …then, Titanfall happens

      Reply

      1. mark’s avatar

        Was about to buy xbox one for titanfall…until PC ver A___A now i dont need to

        Reply

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