If you read that headline and thought, “Wait, what did I just read?”— you’re not alone. I don’t think anyone saw this coming; nevertheless, it’s true. Ken Levine, the mastermind behind the BioShock series, is dismantling Irrational Games and handing the reigns of the series over to 2K Interactive.
In the meantime, Levine plans to bring around 15 members of the Irrational team into a “smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor” within a separate branch of Take Two. Fortunately, he’s taking measures to help those unlucky enough to not be one of those 15 get new jobs elsewhere. It might be too little too late for them, though, so I wish them the best.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an auteur step down from the “big cheese” position. Cliff Bleszinski and Peter Molyneux both left their respective places at Epic and Lionhead in 2012, but neither of them actually went as far as shutting down the studios in their wake. We see so many talented developers these days shutting down due to financial problems that it’s just plain odd to see one shut down out of personal choice.
But I guess if there was ever a time to cut and run, it would be now. BioShock Infinite was massively successful, and (at least initially) critically acclaimed. Now that all the DLC is finished and set to be released, I can understand if Levine feels he has done all he can with the franchise. Hopefully 2K will do the series justice.
So what’s next for Levine and his band of 15 merry men? Digital, baby. In his post, Levine expresses his goal is “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.” The terms “narrative-driven” and “replayable” don’t tend to show up together all that often, but I trust this new studio will find a way to make it work.
I wish the best to everyone at Irrational. Those folks made some excellent games, and I hope they all have a bright future making many more.