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Irrational Games "Winding Down," Levine Starts New Venture

The team that brought you the incredible Bioshock franchise has been dissolved.

As revealed at the Irrational Games official website, founder Ken Levine is "winding down" the studio and starting a "smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two." Unfortunately, this means that all but fifteen members of the Irrational team will be laid off.

On the plus side, the studio says they'll work to make the transition as easy as possible for the ex-staffers. In addition to financial assistance, they'll proactively attempt to find the talented designers new jobs. As for what Levine's plan is for the future:

"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."

We definitely want to see more narrative-driven experiences from this guy. His Bioshock games always provided us with an unparalleled atmosphere and a wonderful blend of role-playing and first-person shooter mechanics. Here's hoping he can recreate that magic in a different way. I just wish the entire planet wasn't going full-on digital, you know? But it's inevitable.

Tags: irrational games, ken levine, take two interactive, bioshock

2/18/2014 4:03:56 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (28 posts)

LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 4:23:35 PM
Reply

I don't get the reason for the downsizing. It's not like sales were hurting or he isn't making AAA games anymore.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:31:19 PM

His reason for firing most of the studio is because he had a change of passion.

Literally that is the only reason he gives.

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telly
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 4:46:10 PM
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Man, feel bad for all of the people who are out of work because Ken Levine didn't feel like having a big team anymore...

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Knightzane
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 5:48:46 PM
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I hope he won't regret this decision later on. I wasn't a big fan of 1 but Infinite was pretty amazing from what I've played. Minimizing that team wasn't a good idea in my eyes. If anything he could have left and someone could have taken his place so that team could have made more games like Infinite.

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DarthNemesis
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:14:00 PM

I thought Infinite was the worst. The Unreal Engine had aged horribly by then, the controls were a mess, the concept was not as good as the original under water theme and The animations were terrible.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:35:21 PM

Exactly. He could have started up a new team within 2K, and let someone else take over Irrational.

Apparently he spoke to 2K about leaving all together to work on indie games, but they wanted him to do that within the company.

I also heard that Levine gave 2K the Bioshock IP in return for continued support from them.

But still, I don't think this needed to happen within Irrational.

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Cuetes
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:38:02 PM

@darthNemesis, Did we play the same game? I never saw any of the problems you claim to be wrong with this game.

On topic: Its sad to see any studio close down (being in this business I can tell you its not pretty when a studio shuts down). I hope that the employees being let go of are picked up soon. Letting go of a team that created some of the best games this generation to "down" size just seems wrong.

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Hand_of_Sorrow
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 6:23:17 PM
Reply

wow! so you want to move and don't want anyone else to take
the helm so you're just going to close the doors?

if there was a real reason for this move, i'd wish Levine
all the luck in the world. but just moving on and closing
the doors........

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PlatformGamerNZ
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:11:32 PM
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yeah i know i kinda wish i was avalible retail but times are changeing and we have to adapt a bit with those changes wether might want to or not

happy gaming =)

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Akuma07
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:33:28 PM
Reply

This guy is a selfish jackass.

Fires his entire studio because of a "change of passion".

Regardless of what post-firing help they are offering employee's, it is affecting peoples lives. What if the only job 2K offers someone is in another country? and that persons entire family has to move.

Sometimes selfish people just don't understand the consequences of their actions.

He should have just started up a new studio and left Irrational to make great games. From the sounds of what he is saying, they will only be creating smaller scale indie style games from now on. So, see ya later Levine, I regret ever giving you my money.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 9:48:17 PM

What a deplorable outlook.

Levine has earned the right in this industry to pursue anything he damn well pleases. Contrary to popular opinion these days, it is NOT the employer's responsibility to look out for the lives of all his or her employees. No.

If you don't want to be at the whim of a higher-up, become a higher-up yourself. Achieve on that level and then you can talk. Don't whine about how someone didn't cut you a piece of the pie; go out and cut one your damn self.

And by the way, if your resume includes working on Bioshock and a personal recommendation from Ken Levine, you really won't be hurting. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet Levine single-handedly places half the employees he's leaving behind.

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LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 11:05:28 PM

Damn, I think this was a little personal to you Ben...

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 12:25:18 AM

Yeah, well, I REALLY hate this new trend of the employer being a best friend and father to all the employees. Business can never work that way.

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Akuma07
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 3:21:33 AM

Are you serious? Quote me where I complained about pies.

You obviously don't even understand what i was saying. Again, quote me where I said Levine was the father and care taker of all his employee's.

Companies also don't work on the whims of the higher ups, they work on business decisions which benefit the company. At the end of the day 2K made the choice to do this, so they obviously have plans for the employees. I just hope for their sake those plans don't affect them too badly.

Your comment was a complete over reaction and quite offensive to be honest. You don't know who I am or what I do for a living, so don't get on your all mighty high horse and tell me I am wrong for expressing my opinion in a public forum. I come to this site for the community, not to be talked down to by some guy from behind a keyboard.

Good to see you treat your community with as much respect as ever. The fact that someone else recognized your reaction further proves the above.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 2/19/2014 3:23:18 AM

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Akuma07
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 3:57:26 AM

I apologies for that outburst and certain things said.

It just REALLY got to me and I took it very personally when you made comments about my career achievements. My opinion is just as valid as yours or anyone else's, regardless of our previous experience.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 2/19/2014 4:04:31 AM

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Underdog15
Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 5:18:34 PM

I think Ben was talking about the philosophical "you". A general audience, so to speak.

But it's true... it's his business, and therefore, his personal resource to use to make his ends meet. In business, taking care of employees is a move for optics. Morality only fits into business if the image of morality is important to the consumer.

At the end of the day, though... the business is the resource of it's owners. It's a tool. You hire people to do work you need done. You don't provide work so that others can make money.

Do you buy cable because you want your cable company to make money they deserve, or because you want cable at your house? If you decide to switch to DSL or satelite, are you going to keep paying the cable company so they don't have to deal with the loss of your resources? No. Of course not. You're going to take your resources elsewhere to make YOUR ends meet.

That's the way it goes. All of us... each and every one... use our resources and skills to obtain what we're after. We all give and take away depending on what we want or need.

Levine is no different. The only exception is charity. And his business is not a charity.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 2/21/2014 5:21:36 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 10:07:48 PM

WHAT the hell are you talking about? I never once referred to you personally. You can't even seem to understand context.

You called Levine a "selfish jackass" and claimed he "fired his entire studio" because of that. Then you rambled about how it "affected people's lives" and you once again called Levine "selfish."

...uh, is there any other way to interpret those comments than by my response? You can't get all pissy and try to take it back after you already said it. "I regret ever giving you my money?" I mean, give me a BREAK. That guy has done amazing things for this industry and he deserves a lot better than your ridiculous insults.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 2/21/2014 10:13:23 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 7:41:05 PM
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Such awful news, I'm really gonna miss Bioshock. If someone else takes it, it's gonna suck.

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___________
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 4:02:20 AM

eh, theres still hope.
2K marin did a pretty bang up job on bioshock 2 so i wouldnt say the series is doomed.
certainly will never be the same without ken, but theres still a glimmer of hope.
funny almost every new IP of last gen is either dead, or so far from its original roots it might as well be!
sigh.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 10:58:48 PM
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-.- Smaller team sizes for more ambitious projects I can get behind. Digital only, though. Damn. Oh well, still looking forward to whatever Levine is working on. He's earned that with his history.

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___________
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 4:00:41 AM
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wow...... the whole industries falling apart!
the amount of big name studios or even publishers leaving the past year or so is really worrying!
seems like either your a first party developer, or your soon confined to working on digital games!
first jaffe leaves and his team refocuses on digital games, then carmack and half of id leaves, than alex and half his team leave criterion, then ghost most of the men who left criterion gets shut down, then visceral and EA montreal get shut down, just to name maybe 10% of the recent closures and layoffs.
WTFs happening to this industry!
i wouldent be surprised if more publishers start folding, and everyone turns to crowd funding soon.
and you know what, im not so sure thats a bad thing.

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Akuma07
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 4:32:29 AM

Could be a good thing. Sort of an old guard handing over the reigns sort of thing.

In regards to publishers. The big publishers are doing well right now. Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and EA are the holy trinity of publishers now. These 3 won't go under, maybe ever.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 2/19/2014 4:41:19 AM

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___________
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 7:24:57 AM

thats the problem though, there will be no one there to pick them up.
and every publishers suffered from this.
THQ, probably the ONLY publisher this gen where every game of theirs i loved!
and to say thanks for that, the industry brutally murdered them!
:(
ubisofts doing ok, but their montreal studios had a few layoffs, so has the studio who did splinter cell blacklist, michel ancel and his team who did rayman, well, the less said about them the better!
the tom clancy team, ever since future soldier tanked they have had allot of layoffs and now that patriots has disappeared that hasnt helped either.
not to mention the massive delay for watch dogs.
antivisions suffered allot of layoffs in IW, beenox, and especially blizzard have had allot of cut backs ever since diablo 3 came out and did not do so well.
EAs the worst, they have closed down so many studios ive lost count!
visceral, EA montreal, criterion, ghost, then theres third party developers they destroyed with their EAP like insomniac, and kingdoms team.
bugthesda lost half of the id staff, 2K lost ken, epic lost cliffy and tod ferg, $ony has lost famuto udea, ninty is bleeding money at record rates!
hell only publisher out there that has not suffered massive setbacks is M$!


Last edited by ___________ on 2/19/2014 7:26:07 AM

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Akuma07
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 7:00:35 PM

Wow. I honestly didn't know it was that bad.

There have been a few articles doing the rounds since the Irrational Games announcement, talking about the death of AAA games.

I think part of the problem lays with the fact that game development costs have soared since the last gen. Also correct me if I am wrong but development times seem to have been cut in half in most cases. COD, AC, and Battlefield are all in development for maybe 2 years.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 2/19/2014 7:00:44 PM

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___________
Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 7:57:02 AM

whats really funny and pathetic though is so many developers said this was going to happen years ago!
jaffes speech at GDC in 2010 if i remember right was exactly on this, development costs need to go down otherwise were going to see allot of big studios closing, let alone the little guys!
and next gen has made things even worse, taking much more manpower and much higher budgets, yet in a smaller timeframe.
were coming to the point where games need to sell 3M+ units just to break even, that is absurd!

its funny ive been doing a bachelors degree in computer science, major in game development for 2 years now, and every teachers been telling us basically WTF are you doing here!
not only them either, late last year we had a work experience event where we went to ubisofts headquarters in sydney and they were telling us the same, they were helping out on the tools for next gen systems for ACIV, but once that was finished half the studio was shut down because there taking it all internal now.
half the class has even deffered to the software development course now.
im thinking i should too, nothing worse than spending 60 grand and a 5 year course, then find out you cant find a job!
its come to the point that your either owned by the really big companies like $ony who not only rely on games for funding, and mind you even they are cutting staff!
or you go to mobile applications where the development costs compared to sales is the complete opposite!
frustrating, no true gamer wants to work on bloody phone games!
but the fact of the matter is 99% of us dont have a choice, its either that or find something else to do.
sucks that you can make a crappy mobile game a 5 year old could make and it will make you more money than creating the years AAA GOTY!


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Palmetto
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 9:04:50 AM
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So where does that leave the Vita Version of Bioshock that was being developed? Also, I wonder how much the rejection of DRM policy by the gaming community is playing in Levine's decision to change directions.

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Nas Is Like
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 11:43:45 AM
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What an asshole. He puts people out of a job just to follow his own goal. Selfish as it gets.

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Underdog15
Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 5:22:37 PM

Welcome... to every business in the world. lol

A business only hires you because the owners NEED you. If you don't fit into their goals anymore, you get axed. Even not-for-profits operate this way.

Have you ever taken your business elsewhere? Maybe switched service providers? Gone to a different mechanic or grocery store? Boy... was THAT ever selfish of you!

Last edited by Underdog15 on 2/21/2014 5:24:11 PM

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