Irrational Games to Close After BioShock Infinite DLC - Update

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Irrational Games to Close After BioShock Infinite DLC - Update

BioShock Infinite Burial At Sea

Ken Levine announces he is winding down the studio in favor of a smaller endeavor at publisher Take-Two.

Update: Take-Two and 2K have responded with effectively a no comment, pointing everyone to Levine's post on Irrational Games site.

Original Story: In a surprising move, Irrational Games will be closing its doors and laying off staff after the upcoming release of the new BioShock Infinite DLC. Studio Director Ken Levine said only 15 people will be retained for a new project under publisher Take-Two.

In a note to fans, Levine said that he has a new project in mind and needed to start over. "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," he said. "In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience."

Levine said the goal of the new studio will be "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."

Whatever the new venture will be, it will happen under the Take-Two brand. Levine said he had though about going the start-up route, but the publisher convinced him to keep the new studio in-house. Take-Two will also be available to help those displaced find opportunities within other studios at the publisher.

We've contacted publisher Take-Two for comment and will update as we get more information.

The last DLC for BioShock Infinite is Burial at Sea Episode 2, and is scheduled to be released on march 25 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Irrational Games was founded in 1997. It released System Shock 2 in conjunction with Levine's former developer, Looking Glass Studios, two years later. Take-Two acquired the studio in 2006, and was renamed to 2K Boston, where it released BioShock in 2007. It later returned to the Irrational Games name in 2010.

Source: Irrational Games

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That was unexpected, sounds like something major after how successful the studio has been. I wonder if the had a big falling out or something.

Well, this seems rather irrational.

I'll see myself out...

OT: Seriously, what the hell. Infinite was WAY too successful to justify doing this to the studio without a good reason. We need some form of justification for this, just to see what is going on inside levine's head.

Edit: Took closing out because my brain died.

Initially, I thought the only way to build this venture was with a classical startup model, a risk I was prepared to take.

Good to see he cares about the people being laid-off.

Yeah, this seems like a dick move to me. I need more news about the project they have planned to know why this happened.

uchytjes:
Well, this seems rather irrational.

I'll see myself out...

OT: Seriously, what the hell. Infinite was WAY too successful to justify closing the studio without a good reason. We need some form of justification for this, just to see what is going on inside levine's head.

did you actually read the article or just the headline?
they are not closing, they let most people go and 15 people will stay with levine at take two under some other name and keep doing shit. the headline should have been "irrational to fire a bunch of people, rebrand"

the best thing about infinite was the story and the feel of the world, i assume you can do that with a smaller studio

Well, this seems to have come completely out of nowhere. And it sounds like it's happened just to allow Ken Levine to do what he wants (what with him staying at Take-Two and not losing his job). Which would be fine on it's own, but not at the expense of about 130 people losing their jobs.

So consider any interest I may have in Ken Levine's next project on ice, at least until we maybe hear about some of those being hired wherever they may go.

J Tyran:
That was unexpected, sounds like something major after how successful the studio has been. I wonder if the had a big falling out or something.

I would guess that full blown AAA production is just too expensive/trouble, so they are gonna focus on smaller project, has I think $20 to $40 release, that you continue to support with DLC after, might have more business sense then $60 release.

But my real guess, is that Levine want to work on a pet project and with a small team of his best staff, he can basically put has much time perfecting the game as he want with the finance he got available.

teebeeohh:

uchytjes:
Well, this seems rather irrational.

I'll see myself out...

OT: Seriously, what the hell. Infinite was WAY too successful to justify closing the studio without a good reason. We need some form of justification for this, just to see what is going on inside levine's head.

did you actually read the article or just the headline?
they are not closing, they let most people go and 15 people will stay with levine at take two under some other name and keep doing shit. the headline should have been "irrational to fire a bunch of people, rebrand"

the best thing about infinite was the story and the feel of the world, i assume you can do that with a smaller studio

Well my brain just died. I actually did read the article but still wrote that. Maybe its just that I connected "closing its doors and laying off staff" to closing and that stuck with me the rest of the article. Oh well, I'll edit it back.

I...He...But...WHAT?!?

I...I have no words to express my disbelief and confusion. Much like uchytjes said above: Irrational was WAY too successful to need to lay off so many people like this. The only explanation is that Levine didn't need a large production team, but to just fire them all? That's a bit of a dick move. You can't just lay off all but 15 workers because your next project didn't need them, or at least you shouldn't be able to.

J Tyran:
That was unexpected, sounds like something major after how successful the studio has been. I wonder if the had a big falling out or something.

Possible, but unlikely. When it comes down to it, your staff is justified by your needs, and it doesn't appear that there is a major project in the works that would justify a large staff. On a positive note, most of that staff shouldn't have a hard time getting a job with Bioshock on their resume.

I'm with inludian: I think there's just a different project in the works that is going to have a long early-development time that requires a smaller team. Say what you will about the gameplay and graphics, the Bioshock games were more defined by their cleaver storytelling, themes, and level of personal detail that their games had. You only need a handful of people to do that. Once they get into full development (i.e. actually coding the game), then they can hire more people to do the gruntwork of coding and debugging.

Wow... did not see this coming. I know Bioshock Infinite had troubled development but this seems, well, sudden. I don't know what to say, expect thanks for the games.

To be blunt, I'm not at all sure Levine's desire for narrative/core gamer focus is sufficient reason to lay a bunch of people off. My cynical mind says "By working with a smaller staff on a lower budget, I can indulge my inner George Lucas without having to worry as much about pissing off people who actually expect narrative coherence, fulfilled promises, and decent production values."

Not unusually, I'd love for my cynical side to be wrong and the new studio to create works of unbridled excellence that push the whole medium forward. But right now, I have a bad taste in my mouth.

If he wanted to just leave and do is own thing, he could have just done so and promoted a new CEO;
He didn't need to blow up the entire company and lay everyone (except 15 people) off.

Think about it this way:
If you were a developer and, post Irrational layoffs, saw a new job posting under Ken Levine would you even want to work there knowing one day you could show up to the office and be told "everyone is fired, go home"?

So, why didn't he resign, leave someone else in charge of the studio, fund a new one, and not fucking leave dozens of people out of a job, again?

Like most of you this caught be off guard.
Surprising move. Can't really see the point to be honest.

Wow, NOBODY is reading this article...

John Keefer:
Take-Two will also be help those displaced find opportunities within other studios at the publisher.

Nobody is getting laid off or fired. They're getting reassigned to other studios. Still a surprising move, but he's not a dick for doing it.

Also, the article mentions 2K will be making more Bioshock sequels, but without Levine's involvement.

Between this and how he handled the "is Elizabeth sexist" issue I've lot a bit of respect for him.

Before more statements are made, I know why Ken wants to start over, and he (and so have us) has seen what's happened to many publisher-owned developers before.

You see, the usual cycle for Western developers is this: Colleagues and friends start a studio to create games for fun and profit, but mostly fun. Eventually, one of the studio's games receives critical acclaim and gets the attention of a big publisher. Mr. Publisher offers a deal to buy the company and the money is too good to deny, which goes through as the developers also believe that the publisher can take care of the non-gaming things, meaning more time spent on development. However, with the purchase of the developer, the publisher sees the management as "unsatisfactory" and starts putting in people that A) has little to no idea how game development works, B) wishes to expand the userbase and bring in more profits at the expense of the effectiveness of the game's elements, and/or C)only wishes to believe that what he or she was taught in school - often traditional top-down corporate structure with authoritarian leadership style - is the best way to manage the team. Because of the changes and new rules, relations between these managers and friends are soon strained, and the spirit that once drove the company and its games dies off or gets muddled to a point where it feels no longer passionate. Either way, it results in members of the original team breaking off to find that original spirit the developer had before the buyout. Meanwhile, the voids that are created are filled with people ranging to familiar with the game to thinking they're familiar with the game, and as a result the focus of what the game is supposed to be is lost.

And yet, thanks to major marketing moves by the publisher, the game still sells millions. Or, due to the loss of spirit and giving in to the desires of the publisher, make a game that is so critically panned and/or sells so poorly compared to projections that the publisher pulls out before further losses happen and closes the studio. Both sound so familiar, doesn't it?

That's what Ken Levine is afraid of. Or, that's what he was starting to see symptoms of in Irrational. He needed to get out of that deal, and start again. Not to preserve himself, but to preserve the spirit of his creations.

uncanny474:
Wow, NOBODY is reading this article...

John Keefer:
Take-Two will also be help those displaced find opportunities within other studios at the publisher.

Nobody is getting laid off or fired. They're getting reassigned to other studios. Still a surprising move, but he's not a dick for doing it.

People read what they want to read. Let them bask in their own willful ignorance, as their preconceived notions will not get them very far.

Wow, what a dick ...!

"I wanted a smaller team so I ruined a couple of lives to make it happen." How the fuck do you deal with that? If it's a money issue then at least there is a logical reason behind it (they can't pay me and I work for money, so I can't work there any more).

Is this even legal? Scaling back for financial reasons is one thing but scaling back 'cos you don't want a large team? Seems very scumbag Steve to me.

I can just see somebody futility trying to explain "you can't just fire people 'cos you WANT a smaller team" ... "why not? I didn't want them so I got rid of them" ... "'cos they have lives and responsibilities!" ... "yeah, but I didn't want them".

(I imagined that in the douchey Louis c.k voice)

Well, here's hoping that the people who get laid off find good jobs elsewhere, and that we'll still be getting some more Bioshock-esque games some time in the future.

I see this as more signs of a bloated and overly monopolized industry splintering and collapsing under its own weight.

The world is full of strange things happening all the time and this is very strange and makes me a bit sad :( at least i can be burried at sea in the mean time.

Well, that came out of the blue. Especially when they had such success with Infinite. Hopefully we find out more as to the reasons why because it seems weird to shut the studio down just to give Levine the chance to do something different. Put someone else in charge and continue churning out Bioshocks (which is going to happen regardless of whether Irrational are around) and let Levine do his thing elsewhere. And why couldn't he just make a splinter group within Irrational to develop new things whilst the core staff work under someone else? It is possible for a studio to do more than one project at the same time

Seems odd to me that he would lay off designers as part of some business-structured method of "knowing himself." Wouldn't the more ideal path be to form a bunch of the extra designers into a new team that focuses on its own projects? Seems like money wasted for nothing. But then I only know the surface details.

Either they had a massive falling out, or this is what genuine artistic integrity looks like.... its weird. I guess that means that Bioshock might be on break for the foreseeable future, unless take two hands it to someone else.

Actually, I'm betting what happened here is Levine got tired of AAA development in general and was just going to pack up and leave to go indie, but Take Two didn't want to lose their ace in the hole of course, so they convinced him to stay by providing him the (small) budget he needs now and probably give him more control over how he does things.

So this way, Take Two doesn't lose their top guys and their publishing deal, and Levine gets to go indie without actually going indie.

uncanny474:
Wow, NOBODY is reading this article...

John Keefer:
Take-Two will also be help those displaced find opportunities within other studios at the publisher.

Nobody is getting laid off or fired. They're getting reassigned to other studios. Still a surprising move, but he's not a dick for doing it.

It's a PR move because they know not many people will take them up on it. Irrational was in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was also the only 2K studio in that state.

If they're offering an employee the choice to move their entire family to 2K Australia for a job, I can't help but think not many people will take that option.

One of my friends works/ed there, and working under Ken Levine definitely wasn't one of the more joyous parts of his job as a level designer. I wish everyone luck in finding new jobs, though I don't know that there's really all that much up there or the northeast in general, so I guess a lot of relocating is gonna happen for quite a few people. :c

So what's the big deal?

Irrational games has been owned by Take-Two Interactive since 2006.

Levine and 15 others are starting a new studio also owned by Take-Two.

This is merely the normal downsizing of a studio after shipping a big game.

Irrational has released only 2 Bioshock games in the 8 years they have been owned by Take-Two.

Now that they are going to start a new IP they are starting a new studio to get that whole "fresh start" feeling.

"edit"

Probably also has something to do with it taking 6 years to make Bioshock Infinite and it selling less well than Bioshock 2 which was a cheap and quick sequel.

Does this mean no more Bioshock games?

That would be unacceptable to me. Now if you excuse me, I must cry and there's a corner with my name on it.

o...kay, that came out of nowhere. So basically Levine is dissolving the actual studio but everyone is being shifted around? This is all very confusing.

Why couldn't he have just made a new studio without laying people off? Or better yet, do a restructuring similar to what Double Fine did after Brutal Legend where they split everybody into four teams working on smaller games. Either of these would allow Ken to do whatever he wants, but without the collateral damage of making everybody move to a different studio within 2k (which would require moving a substantial distance, which is never desirable for obvious reasons) or risk trying to find a job at a different studio. I never like jumping to conclusions with stuff like this when we don't have the whole story, but I have a hard time thinking of any explanation that doesn't involve Ken Levine being a massive asshole.

Weaver:

uncanny474:
Wow, NOBODY is reading this article...

John Keefer:
Take-Two will also be help those displaced find opportunities within other studios at the publisher.

Nobody is getting laid off or fired. They're getting reassigned to other studios. Still a surprising move, but he's not a dick for doing it.

It's a PR move because they know not many people will take them up on it. Irrational was in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was also the only 2K studio in that state.

If they're offering an employee the choice to move their entire family to 2K Australia for a job, I can't help but think not many people will take that option.

That's exactly what I'm thinking. These people have been promised they will be looked after. But, what's to say the available jobs are 300-3000 miles away, may have lower pay, and might even be in a different position other than their expertise. It might even take a month or more of moving their families and waiting on unemployment for that promised position to open, and that's an optimistic scenario.

Also, it may very well be a worthless promise 2k said just to please those employees and the public. I've been directly lied to by several companies before. I was a shift manager at a movie theater for a couple years.( I was actually higher up in the seniority at that position. Seniority is just useless in almost even non-union job.) They said we all would keep our jobs after a big takeover, then 2 weeks later demoted most of us and turned the remainder into the top managers little bitches. Then, I got got job fixing new cars in a big tent across the street from a car plant. They told me they had a building being rented or purchased which is what made my skepticism go away. I found out they didn't even have a contract signed and the company that inspected the cars(and shared our tent) DID get a building big enough for both groups to work in. The guys in charge there liked me, but needless to say the big wigs of any company will screw over an low employee to save money or through business incompetence.(The funny thing about that is that company just went under because idiots they hired across the country screwed up several lots of new vehicles.)

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