The End of BioShock? Irrational Games Shutting Down

Irrational Games, the company behind the BioShock series, is effectively shutting down. Irrational’s closure will end a seventeen-year run that began in 1997 and then their first title System Shock 2 in 1999. Co-founder Ken Levine revealed the news in an update on the developer’s website today. The good news is that Ken Levine isn’t leaving Take-Two, the owner of publisher 2K Games of which Irrational is a subsidiary.

Ken Levine will form a leaner, 15-person team inside Take-Two and work on smaller, more narrative-driven titles. BioShock generated over a half billion in sales over the course of its three primary entries. BioShock Infinite, which released last year, was met with both critical praise and financial success, making the shutdown of Irrational all the more unexpected. The BioShock IP will remain with 2K, all but ensuring that even after the untimely demise of Irrational, the franchise will live on with new people leading creative development.

You can read Ken Levine’s entire letter to the public about Irrational Games closing below.

irrationalgames

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

 

-Ken Levine

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  • monstercameron

    i dont get it?

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Basically Irrational Games is shutting down and the co-founder and head of that group is moving on to do something different. Take Two Interactive will take over the Bioshock game development and will bring in some of the former team and new game developers for future game titles. That is my take on it at least.