The employees were shocked.
Irrational Games, the developer that created the BioShock series along with a number of other critically beloved video games, was viewed, by a number of sources close to the studio, as closure-proof: It had pedigree, talent and — to the outside world — creative carte blanche from its parent companies, 2K Games and Take-Two Interactive.
When the studio's co-founder and president, Ken Levine, invited the team of nearly 100 employees into a meeting about the company's history last month, many were surprised to realize, as the presentation progressed, that this very history was coming to an end.
More than a half dozen individuals who worked for Irrational Games during the development of BioShock Infinite, some of whom were there that final day, agreed to speak with Polygon anonymously about their experiences within the company. Additionally, one employee agreed to speak publicly.
Ken Levine and representatives from 2K Games and Take-Two were contacted for this report, but did not provide further comment than this letter Levine published on the day Irrational closed.
However, those affected by recent events and time spent at the studio over the past decade have provided a sense of what led to the end of Irrational. According to those with whom we spoke, the closure was the combined result of unfettered creative freedom, lower-than-expected sales, the butting of heads between Levine and his employees and the unrealistic expectations of big-budget game development.
It was to many a disappointing end to a studio that sought, in the words of those who worked there, to make a mark on the world and that fostered, from its top level, a philosophical viewpoint that it could and should make the absolute best video games.
But in the end, the strengths of Irrational Games were inextricably bound to its weaknesses.