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Irrational Games to shut down, BioShock franchise now in 2K’s hands

Ken Levine

Irrational Games will shut down once BioShock Infinite‘s Burial at Sea – Part 2 DLC releases in March, studio founder Ken Levine confirms in a new post on the studio’s official website. “I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it,” he writes. “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.”

Levine co-founded Irrational in 1997 with partners Jon Chey and Rob Fermier. They immediately set to work on what would be their first release, the critically acclaimed System Shock 2 (which would go on to serve as an inspiration for BioShock). The studio continued to pick up steam through the late ’90s and early Aughts, with releases like Freedom Force and S.W.A.T. 4 establishing the team as one willing to take risks and try new ideas. Lightning then struck on a monumental stage in 2007 with the release of BioShock. The game’s open-ended linearity and dazzling story quickly earned recognition as a landmark moment in video games. The studio had been acquired one year earlier by Take-Two Interactive, and the release of BioShock earned Levine and his team all the cred they needed to tackle the lengthy development process necessary for BioShock Infinite.

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The highly anticipated Irrational release – now officially the studio’s swan song – garnered high praise from critics when it launched in March 2013. Levine, for his part, will continue to work on games in his post-Irrational role at Take-Two, but he’ll be working on a smaller scale to deliver a different type of experience.

“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,” his post reads. “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.”

In the meantime, Levine is currently writing the screenplay for the proposed Logan’s Run remake for Warner Bros.  

As for the rest of Irrational’s staff that won’t be joining him, Levine claims their first concern is to make sure those not coming with him are taken care of. Soon to be former Irrational staffers that aren’t taken on by Take-Two to work on other projects will have the opportunity to meet with 3rd party publishers at a recruiting day hosted by the studio before it closes down for good.  

Fans wondering about the fate of BioShock can also rest easy, as the franchise will live on in Take-Two subsidiary 2K’s hands. 

“I’m handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative,” said Levine. “If we’re lucky, we’ll build something half as memorable as BioShock.”

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