Ken Levine shuttering Bioshock studio Irrational Games

Tuesday, 18th February 2014 17:41 GMT By Phil Owen

In a statement issued on the homepage of the company’s official site, BioShock creator Ken Levine says he will be closing down the BioShock Infinite studio soon, with most of its staff being laid off in the process.


“I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it. I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two,” Levine wrote. “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.”

Levine had said as recently as October that the possibility for Irrational to produce a new Bioshock title still existed. Now, Levine and those folks he’s bringing with him to this Take-Two sponsored startup will look more closely at story and reaplayability in new game projects.

“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.”

Meanwhile, 2K will take over the BioShock property completely moving forward.



  1. BlackArrow

    So.. No more Bioshock in the future?

    That would be a huge shame.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. Dragon

    Odd. Their games were a huge success financially. Wonder why he is doing that…

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Legendaryboss

    Thats strange and unexpected, Bioshock seemed like a hit commercially, may have taken a nose dive with Infinite with some fans but still.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. Johnny Cullen


    #4 10 months ago
  5. Andryprime

    I’m extremely sad. I LOVE the Bioshock Series :(

    Why Ken..

    #5 10 months ago
  6. jmg24bad

    I wouldnt like to think they had a huge amount of debt. Maybe they didnt have another game in the pipeline and wanted to start from scratch. Have a smaller team to work on smaller games?

    #6 10 months ago
  7. Edo

    To say that I am shocked would be an understatement,hopefully this doesn’t meant the end for Bioshock as we know it.

    #7 10 months ago
  8. Edo


    #8 10 months ago
  9. TheWulf

    BioShock Infinite was a bizarre beast. It was either a fantastic game riddled with a terminal case of shooter-cancer, or it was an average shooter burdened by unnecessarily ‘artsy’ stories and plot. It was as much of a Frankenstein’s monster as anything could be, except that in this case they didn’t follow the instruction manual and they didn’t have an officially licensed Igor.

    So they put it together wrong, and now the monster has sixteen pairs of testicles dangling from its head. It could be called gross incompetence, but of a bizarre kind, where they were talented but at the same time they clearly had absolutely no idea what they were doing, at all.

    I’m sure that if you took the shooter elements and dipped them in the homogeneous soylent green sludge that AAA games are known for, thus making it more like Halo or Gears of War, then you’d have something that fans of that would have enjoyed. If you’d scraped away all of the shooter-cancer and put it through a steady course of therapy? In that case, it’s conceivable we might have had something memorable, for the ages.

    But we had neither. It was deemed more profitable to keep it riddled with shooter-cancer, but they were also wholly unable to let go of their desire to create an interesting world and tell an engaging, human story.

    Such a strange beast. And one I pity.

    BioShock Infinite was something I wanted to take away from them and nurse back to health, I would have paid the medical bills myself, if I could. I hate seeing something ail so, and ail it did. It was meant for some kind of exploration-based experience, perhaps something more along the lines of Myst, maybe even with some platforming, just for fun.

    BioShock Infinite is amazing right up until the moment you’re given a gun, and then it lays dormant until that gun is taken from you at the very end. You can experience the only worth of Infinite on Youtube, which makes it not worth the entry price. And they didn’t realise this, or perhaps they did, and they weren’t allowed to act on it. I can’t help but wonder whether it was Levine’s idea, or whether his hands were tied.

    If he was against it, then this is a good idea, and I support it. I’d love to see what he could do if he didn’t have to turn every one of his games into a shooter. If it was his doing, then perhaps it’s best if he quietly leaves the industry, because those kinds of Frankenstein constructions…

    Well, no one needs them.

    We’ll see. We’ll see.

    I hope for the best.

    #9 10 months ago
  10. Edo

    Hopefully that is not the case here.

    #10 10 months ago
  11. Erthazus

    It’s because Bioshock Infinite costed them a lot.

    The sales are great in theory (let’s just say 1.5 million for 360+PS3 and other sales for the PC), but I think they are not great for the title that had massive amount of cash for actors, art assets and the result was not what Take-Two had expected.

    Personally I think the game had good story but with weak gameplay and replayability.

    #11 10 months ago
  12. TheWulf


    I’m sure there’ll be BioShock, but it’ll be more of a homogeneous sort, and less artsy. Which is, I think, what the audience there wants. If Levine is truly the artist of the piece and not just the shooter fan, I think that those who prefer those artsy experiences will get what they want, too.

    So if it is that way, it’s a win-win.

    #12 10 months ago
  13. JB

    I think their games became worse and worse from a gameplay perspective. One can only hope of better things in his new studio, so good luck to them.

    #13 10 months ago
  14. TheWulf


    I don’t believe that’s actually the case. I think that the desired audience for BioShock Infinite were alienated by how artsy it was, and it turned them away from it. Why play artsy manshoot when you can just play military manshoot?

    And then those who were attracted to the visuals and the stories (like myself) were alienated by it because its manshootness was grafted on in a really ugly and unwelcome way.

    Separating the art from the manshoot is the best thing they can do. I’m starting to think that art and manshoot are mutually exclusive.

    #14 10 months ago
  15. Ireland Michael

    @BlackArrow I have to disagree.

    Games don’t need to have loads of sequels, spin offs and reboots. I think a lot of people have lost appreciation for self contained stories, where once the story is done, that’s it. Why does there *have* to be more?

    It’s definitely sad that people will lose their jobs. That’s never a good thing. But I’m also of the belief that Triple AAA has essentially transformed into Hollywood, with only big budget, low risk ideas being financially feasible anymore. Unfortunately, even those are struggling, with only the most high profile stuff ever managing to turn a profit anymore.

    Indie / digital arcade / mobile is the way to go.

    #15 10 months ago
  16. absolutezero

    Why have you all instantly jumped to sales and commercial reasons as to why someone would not want to continue making Triple-A endless budget games?

    Its pretty obvious that Infinite was a very difficult and very long thing to create and perhaps Levine has just gotten tired of the entire thing. I would not blame him for wanting to try something, anything different to the Triple A machine of death.

    #16 10 months ago
  17. Edo

    Well that’s that then.

    #17 10 months ago
  18. CyberMarco

    Still waiting to hear about that Bioshock Vita game…

    Not going to happen!

    #18 10 months ago
  19. Edo

    Well…that’s that then.

    #19 10 months ago
  20. Legendaryboss

    @CyberMarco Vapourware project is definitely killed now, well no one should have expected it either way.

    #20 10 months ago
  21. mistermogul

    @TheWulf – I agree. Bioshock Infinite was rated higher than it should have been imo. Pretty average all round except for cool artwork.

    I think reviewers let their love for Ken Levine interfere with their scores…

    #21 10 months ago
  22. fihar

    What an absolutely Irrational thing to do.
    Been wanting to say that since I saw the headline.

    If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be easier for him to just leave the studio instead of closing it down and laying off most of its staffs? Like what a lot of developers have done before?
    This seems to be a shitty thing to do if it’s purely for creative reasons.

    #22 10 months ago
  23. Dragon

    What are you talking about? They downsized just so they could concentrate on Bioshock Vita :lol:

    #23 10 months ago
  24. Dragon

    I don’t have worries either way. If he just wants to make “smaller, unique” games, that is his wish.
    I hope he could have said it, because I doubt anyone will question him that way. Its all just a bit weird. Like tomorrow David Cage or Kojima disband their studio.

    #24 10 months ago
  25. Kieran

    Once I grasped the story it was well written I thought I enjoyed it and the art direction was class I thought to. But the gameplay was kinda shallow searching stuff constantly in bins and all but I wish them all the best and goodluck in future :-)

    #25 10 months ago
  26. traumadisaster

    They proably received a severance for 3 months equaling regular take home pay. In which case they can spend a few hours daily looking for a job and the rest working out and catching up things. If they are good they will be hired with 4 weeks and receive paycheck and severance pay. If they cant get a job in 3 months then they can have a plan to make themselves more marketable.

    #26 10 months ago
  27. gyactive The

    ahh what

    #27 10 months ago
  28. NinjaMidget

    Huge announcement. I’m actually happier he’s going to be taking on something new. Prove he can do something great outside of the ‘Shock’ franchise with a small team. Good luck to him.

    #28 10 months ago
  29. wishdokta

    Congratulations. You want mobile games and yearly itterations over creations like BioShock? There you have it…
    Seriously. This is bonkers. Why not having a 15-heads team to work on digital content only AND leave Irrational as it was? Blizzard proving it with Hearthstone, small teams could work.
    Smalltalk aside – this is very sad news.

    #29 10 months ago
  30. TD_Monstrous69

    Wow, bombshell is an understatement, I’m almost speechless. Though I immensely look forward to the fruits of this long endeavor that Ken Levine and Take Two are embarking upon, and am more than confident that nothing but a much stronger Take Two will emerge from this. R.I.P. Irrational Games, though you may be gone soon, your legacy and body of work will surely not be forgotten, especially in the thoughts of this gamer.

    #30 10 months ago
  31. absolutezero


    Hes taking 15 members of Irrational with him. Who I imagine are the core leads that Levine has surrounded himself with. Cutting them out or Irrational would more or less kill the studio anyway. I can’t imagine TakeTwo just wanting to lose the Irrational name though, I mean they tried to rename the studio before and it managed to come back from that.

    #31 10 months ago
  32. thegrimmling

    I got a feeling that Bioshock Infinite was not very profitable. They spent a lot in development and marketing.

    #32 10 months ago
  33. ManuOtaku

    Well iam very sad with this news, sadly iam not in shock by it, because this follows the trend of the closure of developers in this industry in the pase few years, something that it seems to be increasing with not turning back, pretty sad for the people involve and their families, hope they will find a job real soon.

    Having said that i dont understand some of the comments torwars infinite, because i did find the shotting mechanics better in infinite than bioshock, the worlds were supperb in both games and the stories quite good, for me it was a great game, different than the first one, but better on the gunplay.

    #33 10 months ago
  34. Darkfield

    Probably there’s an internal side, I guess he pitched a new game to the board and they didn’t think it’d be successful enough. Now he might open up an indie studio and take that idea to fans through kickstarter.

    #34 10 months ago
  35. Digital Bamboo


    #35 10 months ago
  36. ddtd

    @absolutezero – I agree with you. Some people probably (shockingly) get tired of pumping out sequels and doing the same thing over and over again.

    More likely than not, Levine probably saw the freedom that small teams have, but unlike most indies, he has the backing of a big–and seemingly really cool and with-it–publisher.

    #36 10 months ago
  37. polygem

    the first bioshock clearly is among my favourite games of the last gen consoles.
    bioshock 2, while not a bad game, didn´t do the trick for me anymore, i stopped playing it halfway through and never returned.

    infinite sits on my hdd and i am hesitating to finally start playing it.
    bioshock is one of those games that should have never received a sequel imho.
    maybe one in a half life style pacing :)
    i hope that i will enjoy infinite but from what i´ve seen and heard, there´s a good chance that i wont.

    sequels just often come too fast, then it´s only just money vs creativity and we know who always wins that fight.

    it´s a shame and i do not blame the devs for that but shortsighted stuff this is from the industries´ suits. the industry is pretty wealthy overall but it needs magical games like the first bioshock a little more frequently. they know that but they come around with the easier but often wrong solution: the sequel. they should give games more room to breathe and not cannibalize them.

    new ip´s often feel like a combination of puzzle pieces of well established franchises too. that´s another problem imo.
    what´s been analyzed are sales and only sales. games that sell well. that´s the threshold for making new games.

    it´s understandable but not always the best thing to do if you think in longer periods.
    imho this needs much better balancing in the future.
    now, more than ever before, otherwise it´ll slowly bleed off, will be stuck in mediocrity like the film industry. it´s not there yet, mainly thanks to the rise of the indies and some rare triple a gems. but the indies will be incorporated into the mainstream (happening as we speak) and then forced to assimilate to function under the banner of the dollar.

    i hope we will realise it and not just keep playing anyway mindlessly…

    i am optimistic though. there will always be great stuff, you just have to look for it much more.

    #37 10 months ago
  38. polygem

    i´m 4 or 5 hours in now. opening is pretty good but i´m with wulf on this one. post #9 is a pretty impressive wrap up for me this far. i need to play it more and i will finish it but i am already at a point where i could easily stop playing and it wouldn´t matter to me much. it´s just too much of a regular shooter under all this arty paint. bioshock one is miles ahead in every regard. it was so much more immersive. infinite is yet another good but still disappointing game. i can´t count those anymore.

    #38 10 months ago

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