Irrational Games Renamed

Irrational Games Renamed

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Irrational Games, the studio behind the highly-anticipated FPS BioShock, has been renamed.

Take-Two Interactive, which purchased Irrational in January 2006, announced today that the developer would take on new names for each of its studios: 2K Boston for the company's headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, and 2K Australia for its Canberra studio. The change is meant to reflect the studio's deeper integration into the 2K Games brand.

"Irrational Games is widely recognized as one of the most innovative studios in the world," said 2K President Christoph Hartmann, explaining his company's desire to eliminate one of the most widely recognized and innovative studio brands in the world from its stable. "Following their incredible efforts in bringing BioShock to life, we are proud to make the newly renamed Irrational Games studios a cornerstone of our game development family."

"We're proud to be part of the 2K Games family and enjoy the new opportunities and artistic freedoms this strengthened relationship provides," said Ken Levine, 2K Boston President and Creative Director, as well as a founding member of Irrational. "The name change signifies our growing position as a central part of 2K Games, and we plan to ensure our future titles continue to set new standards of quality and innovation for the industry."

Founded in 1997 by Levine, Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier, all former employees of the defunct Looking Glass Studios, Irrational quickly garnered acclaim for its first release, the FPS-RPG hybrid System Shock 2, developed in conjunction with Looking Glass. Following that, the studio developed Freedom Force, Tribes: Vengeance and SWAT 4, as well as the recently-gold "spiritual successor" to System Shock 2, BioShock.

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Malygris:
... explaining his company's desire to eliminate one of the most widely recognized and innovative studio brands in the world from its stable.

I love the way you threw that in there, without breaking stride. Unless that came directly from the press release, in which case I'm even more impressed at the PR flunkie that slipped it in.

Oh, lollerskates...

I don't think that's the sort of thing a PR person would consider especially career-friendly.

I'm a bit mystified by the decision. I'm not up in arms about it with the TRAGIC DEATH OF IRRATIONAL crowd, I just don't see the logic behind eliminating a brand you think is just so damn good.

I don't think it would be especially career-friendly either, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it as a parting shot on their way out the door.

I'm a bit mystified as well, but some people are firm believers in having a strong brand of your own. Then again, I can't imagine the VW Automotive group getting rid of Audi and calling it "VW Plus".

In the end, my original impression remains: I love the way your comment fits in there, perfectly in stride with the rest, despite being sort of antithetical. On the skin, the post looks like straight-up press release regurgitation, but beneath the skin lies something FAR more entertaining.

It's a pretty smart decision, if you're 2K. Bioshock went from niche, high-risk title to the potentially highest selling title to hit the 360 since Oblivion practically overnight once the buzz from E3 settled in. Even though it's published by 2K, having 2K plastered on it in one more place is a good brand decision on their part.

So, is this the future of independent studios? Are seeing the same thing happening to small game studios as with record companies, phone companies, isp's, etc? The conglomeration of gaming. We have always known of the conglomeration of game publishing, but it seems game development is beginning to follow suit with big house companies eating smaller houses.

What will this do for gaming?

C

Not sure I agree, Russ. A lot of people have brought up the "strengthening the brand" argument, which is valid to a point, but it can also dilute your brand pretty quickly. Irrational Games will always be the guys who made System Shock 2, and even if you weren't on the scene to play it, the legend of the thing carries enough weight to draw attention. 2K, on the other hand, they do those cheesy unlicensed sports games, right? Like the new one with OJ Simpson. And didn't some of their executives recently get busted for some kind of stock option shenanigans? And it's not as though they're instantly recognizable even through their flagship brand: When people think GTA, they think Rockstar. (And I think it's safe to assume that thought isn't followed with, "A wholly-owned subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive.")

Car analogies are good, so here's another one: Ford owns Jaguar. What do you think the odds are that we'll ever see a Ford XK8 hit the market?

I could be wrong, this really isn't my bag, but I can't help thinking that Irrational's laid a golden egg here, and now 2K has gone to get the carving knife.

I don't think the car analogy holds water here, Andy. Granted, Irrational is well-known in some circles for having created a popular niche title, but Jaguar they aren't. The more perfect analogy would be the relationship between Datsun and Nissan.

Don't question my car analogies, Russ.

Chris Chasteen:
So, is this the future of independent studios? Are seeing the same thing happening to small game studios as with record companies, phone companies, isp's, etc? The conglomeration of gaming. We have always known of the conglomeration of game publishing, but it seems game development is beginning to follow suit with big house companies eating smaller houses.

What will this do for gaming?

I don't see this having any real impact on the industry. Either Levine and co. continue to be given the freedom and resources to develop *Shock-type games, or they don't; the name over the door isn't going to have much impact on that. Conspiracy theories regarding 2K's "real" intentions for Irrational are flying fast and furious, but the truth is almost certainly that 2K sees a massive launch and can't-miss Game of the Year potential in BioShock, and wants to be sure it's their name on the box. From a historical perspective, it kinda sucks; I miss seeing game boxes with names like Bullfrog, Westwood and Infocom on them, too. But beyond that little bit of nerd-rage-tinted nostalgia, it don't mean a thing.

So it's a mixed bag.
On one side, they loose a name recognized by several niches and quite a wide audience - though not many players seem to know or care about a studio name, besides the loud and clear publisher logo.
On the other hand, 2K is radically upping the hotness of their own name, by making Bioshock a 2K game.

This doesn't please the fan, but makes sense on the long term, if 2K really aim at changing their notoriety.

 

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