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RPGWatch Forums » Games » General Non-RPG » Irrational Games Closed

Default Irrational Games Closed

February 18th, 2014, 21:40
Ken Levine has closed Irrational Games. He has decided to fire all but fifteen employees, and open a smaller studio to focus on narrative driven games.

As for BioShock he handed it over to 2K Games. Here are the details.

Link-http://www.irrationalgames.com/
A Message From Ken Levine

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

"It's quite simple my word is the law around here, and failure to comply means termination."

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February 18th, 2014, 22:05
He can be a new King of England for all I care - I'm still not buying his bullshit called season pass. Oh, did he say how much cash he used to lubricate "best sidekick" juries to get some Elizabeth xth, a queen wannabe at least by the name, as near as possible to the top of lists?

Or better question… When exactly did they clone Peter Molyneux?

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February 18th, 2014, 23:05
I can't really say I am sorry, I love Levine's work and I rather see him pursue his vision than be forced to exploit same IP in future, I am curious to see what he will do next.I would rather see Bioshock IP buried than endlessly exploited by lesser teams, but it's unlikely to happen.
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February 18th, 2014, 23:14
Well all I got from this is sorry I'm bored, and want to do something different. Oh and by the way the rest of you are fired except my 15 favorites.

At least a few other studios are contacting the laid off employees.

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February 18th, 2014, 23:28
He never came off as much more than self-centered to me. Best of luck in any case.
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February 19th, 2014, 01:09
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
He never came off as much more than self-centered to me. Best of luck in any case.
Polygon has a massive interview up with him that should make you appreciate his genius more.
http://www.polygon.com/features/2013…-infinite-vgas
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February 19th, 2014, 01:39
Freedom Force 3!!!
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February 19th, 2014, 02:03
I think it sounds like a great new direction. Whether or not he delivers on the goals he presents is another story. But I'm all for a System Shock 2 type of experience again. (not the same game - but the gameplay) - or Deus Ex (not their game but similar style). Narrative driven, replayable, core gamers, etc
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February 19th, 2014, 02:38
Whether you liked them or not, you have to admit they made some great games. I think Bioshock has run its course though, and I don't see System Shock ever being resurrected at this point.
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February 19th, 2014, 03:06
Bioshock Infinite (sans DLC) was a fine ending to the whole Shock series. Those developers making their portfolios are going to have some great stuff to show off.
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February 19th, 2014, 03:07
Maybe I'm totally falling for his excuses but isn't that obviously the right direction* to tackle the industry problems we constantly discuss? AAA budgets stifling innovation and ruining the focus?
While I don't consider them classics of anything Bioshock 1 and 3 had some great aspects that keep me moderately interested whatever Levine does.

*obviously people losing jobs sucks but downsizing isn't inherently bad

I'd just like to interject here and point out that I'm not going to say anything to spoil the mood, Chief. I'll just float here and watch. Don't mind me, just sitting here, floating and watching, that's me.
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February 19th, 2014, 10:28
Worth reading in this context:
http://theconversation.com/games-by-humans-23399
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February 19th, 2014, 10:37
I had a feeling something like this would happen, as he has seemed increasingly fatigued in interviews of late.

I don't think he comes off as self-centered at all, though. More like a person extremely dedicated to making the best games he could within the boundaries of the AAA segment.

As for the future of his games, that remains to be seen.

I've never been terribly interested in games with the narrative as their priority - as I don't think that's where the strength of the medium exists. However, a great game with a strong narrative can be something truly special.

Bioshock Infinite had little in the way of great beyond the narrative, for instance - but what a narrative. The gameplay was decent enough and it held everything up just fine - but it could have been so much more.

I wonder if Levine truly understands game design as well as he does the narrative and the importance of a good premise.

In any case, I think this is much better than suffering burnout and the entire company imploding later on.

The point is to have a flat structure and an intimate development atmosphere. You don't bring everyone to a new team if that's the case - as that would be both stupid and counterproductive.

Looking forward to see what he comes up with, though I expect it will take a long time before we hear anything concrete.
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February 19th, 2014, 11:12
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Worth reading in this context:
http://theconversation.com/games-by-humans-23399
Sounds like 99% speculation with no way to confirm or deny anything.

We might never know the real reason why - but it's pretty certain that if you want more control over your product, you need to have a smaller team and fewer suits fretting about the budget.

From that point of view, this decision makes sense.

As for why someone gets fired and why someone gets to keep their job, that's all but impossible to know from the outside - so I won't start speculating.

However, given the current crowdfunding atmosphere - I have to wonder why he doesn't just go that route.

With his clout - he could likely do what Chris Roberts did and take his next product much further that way.
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February 19th, 2014, 12:16
An interesting turn of events. It seems everyone in the gaming industry is busy scaling up, but Levine wants to go the other way. Perhaps he was even contemplating a Kickstarter if Take-Two hadn't offered to support his plan.

I assume the idea here is for him and his team to be able to do almost whatever they want, so their next game could be worth paying attention to.
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February 19th, 2014, 13:23
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Sounds like 99% speculation with no way to confirm or deny anything.
Not sure what you refer to - the point of the article, at least to me, was that we (the gamers, the press) tend to attach too much importance to celebrity "lead designer" figures, when games are really a large collaborative project. Thus we shouldn't attach too much importance to news like this, maybe. That's not speculation, just an opinion.
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February 19th, 2014, 13:28
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Not sure what you refer to - the point of the article, at least to me, was that we (the gamers, the press) tend to attach too much importance to celebrity "lead designer" figures, when games are really a large collaborative project. Thus we shouldn't attach too much importance to news like this, maybe. That's not speculation, just an opinion.
The article goes into speculation about the reasons behind the closure of the studio - and how it's probably more a suit-driven decision than anything.

As for how a lot of people are involved in development, that's a good point - if a bit obvious. But I don't really see how it's relevant to the topic at hand.

Maybe that's just me, however.
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February 19th, 2014, 14:50
Here is another interesting view on the topic from VG 24/7.

Link- http://www.vg247.com/2014/02/19/take…games-closure/

It’s Take-Two that is the real winner here. The publisher gets to keep the Bioshock franchise, a brand that has generated $500 million in retail sales. There are questions about its viability in the triple-A market now, but it’s still a valuable name to hold on to. We can expect a reboot within the next couple of years.

Take-Two also gets to keep Ken Levine and his cherry-picked band of talent, and at the same time jettison the costly team at Irrational Games. Studios are expensive to run, especially those that take years to make a single-player first-person shooter. In the ruthless publishing business, closing unprofitable studios makes headlines, but more importantly raises stock prices.

Perhaps most importantly Take-Two also gets whatever it is Ken Levine and his team will work on next. For the publisher it’s too expensive to have a big studio like Irrational poncing around with new ideas and being creative when they could be churning out a sellable product and improving 2K Games’ bottom line. Much better for the business to axe what it sees as chaff and keep a smaller experimental team behind.

Take-Two gets to keeps Ken Levine and Bioshock, both of which are much more valuable brands than Irrational Games ever was.

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February 20th, 2014, 00:55
Well another day and a new opinion article from Games Industry.

Link-http://www.gamesindustry.biz/article…ional-decision
Update: Following our publication of this piece, GamesIndustry International has now received a new statement from Take-Two: “We've enjoyed a long and productive working relationship with Ken and are thrilled that he is pursuing his new creative endeavor with Take-Two. Given Ken's plans for this exciting new project, Take-Two determined that the best approach for the remaining Irrational Games staff would be to find internal career opportunities for as many as possible, and to provide placement assistance to those who would be leaving our Company.”

"It's quite simple my word is the law around here, and failure to comply means termination."

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July 8th, 2014, 15:20
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
He can be a new King of England for all I care - I'm still not buying his bullshit called season pass. Oh, did he say how much cash he used to lubricate "best sidekick" juries to get some Elizabeth xth, a queen wannabe at least by the name, as near as possible to the top of lists?

Or better question… When exactly did they clone Peter Molyneux?
This.

I find the Bioshock games to be overhyped. Nothing in them is even new. The whole concept of approaching problems and areas in different ways had been done before (i.e Thief, Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah, Deus Ex).

The only unique thing about Bioshock games are atmosphere they achieve but the games are otherwise standard shooters with lite RPG elements filled with pretentious story-lines. Not saying they're bad but the way the media hyped every installment up was amusing, to say the least.

Bad decision leaving the IP to 2k as they'll milk it clean.

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