Big changes are on the way for Irrational Games, the developer behind Bioshock, System Shock 2, Freedom Force, and most recently, the well received Bioshock Infinite and its DLC. The company is currently completing work on the final piece of DLC for that game, Burial at Sea- Episode 2. Founder Ken Levine posted a letter on the Irrational Games site. It read:
“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 then 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.”
The letter goes on to say that Levine wants 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.”
Levine was going to start up his new venture traditionally, but has been convinced by Take-Two to work within their walls. As for the future of the BioShock franchise? Levine says: “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.”
Irrational Games was founded in 1997, with its first game, System Shock 2, coming out in 1999. That was followed up by Freedom Force in 2002, Tribes: Vengeance in 2004, Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich and SWAT 4, both released in 2005, all for the PC. In 2007 the jump was made to consoles with BioShock, considered to be one of the best narrative-driven first person shooters of all time. The final full game from the company was BioShock Infinite in 2013, with the final piece of DLC for that gaming getting released this year in March. It’s unfortunate that a majority of people are losing jobs with this transition, and hopefully they will be able to go to other studios to continue in their work.
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