Irrational Games shutting down: Ken Levine to move on, BioShock franchise will continue

Irrational Games

By on February 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

In a move that basically everyone in the industry would describe as “completely unprecedented”, Ken Levine has announced that he will be winding down Irrational Games and moving on to create a new studio.

“While I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we’ve done before. 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,” said Levine in a statement on the company’s website.

“In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.”

Levine explained that his new goal was to create “narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable”, with an exclusive focus on digitally delivered content.

“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,” continued Levine. “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.”

“Thanks to Irrational and 2K’s passion in developing the games, and the fans who believe in it, BioShock has generated retail revenues of over a half billion dollars and secured an iconic place in gaming. I’m handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative. If we’re lucky, we’ll build something half as memorable as BioShock.”

20 comments (Leave your own)

Saw some twitter chat about this this morning, agree with a few people that say it seems strange to wind down the entire studio, instead of handing the reigns on.

Even if the studio is his baby, they could rename it or whatever.


Yeah that seems stupid. It’s like Bill Gates shutting down Microsoft when he stepped down or Apple getting closed after Steve Jobs died. Makes no sense and hurts a lot of people who now have no jobs for utterly no reason.


Just WTF to that.


Sooo…just shut down a studio to create another one? Trying hard but I can’t see why this makes sense. Certainly at worst all you’d need to do is restructure your current development studio? Maybe I’m missing something?


Seems like he doesn’t actually know what makes a good game and somehow thinks that he needs a new small studio to make a particular type of game and that just restructuring or refocusing the current place just wont work.


Er… wtf? That shit is just confusing.


The only thing that comes to mind is that it’s possibly easier to dissolve a company than retain a name and lay off a huge number of staff but still keep some.

The other thought is that given it is his baby, he doesn’t want the studio name being tarnished at all and instead of handing it over to somebody else decided to end it all there with no chance of the name Irrational being brought down with sub-par sequels to the Bioshock franchise.

Also if it’s his company, he can do what he damn well likes. I would have rather he retained the IP himself than give it to a publisher. We all know how that goes with EA and Activision with a lot of my childhood games being trashed eg. Syndicate.


Something else at play here..?
Why destory and start again, instead of downsize/restructure/rename or just sell?

These creative types are whack-jobs sometimes..



I agree with your second point; it’s interesting how rather than sell off the studio, walk away with a huge wad of cash and allow another entity to milk out it’s good reputation he chooses to shut down altogether.

It sounds like he wanted to focus on working with a smaller core group of people rather than overseeing a large team. Can’t say I blame him, though I guess the way he puts it sounds more heartfelt than “I’m gonna layoff a bunch of people despite making millions in sales.”


There is a third option, mid life crisis! Usually we go out and buy a Porsche but this guy closes down a perfectly good studio!



Haha, well with the money he probably made with the franchise, he bought two Porsches, a Ferrari and Veryon and still felt a sense of emptiness ;)


Best thing to happen to the Bioshock franchise in recent memory. I can only hope Levine is ‘moving on’ into the nearest rubbish bin, but that might be a little optimistic.


Saw some twitter chat about this this morning, agree with a few people that say it seems strange to wind down the entire studio, instead of handing the reigns on.

Even if the studio is his baby, they could rename it or whatever.

This is how Irrantional came to be in the first place so maybe KL felt it made sense…


I’m assuming Levine is hand picking some staff, and 2K is happily shuffling the rest around to other studios.

Good move, I say. Spending all day telling people what to do and getting no time to create stuff is actually a pretty shitty job.


Smaller team making games for core gamers? Wut?

I swear to god if he launches a Kickstater I’m going to waterboard him until he dies. You can almost smell it coming, they’ll pull the old “we’re experienced devs who want to give back to YOU!” bullshit and rake in the money and get to keep full ownership of everything.


This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks.


Serious ego-tripping by Levine.


Do you guys really think this is Levine’s decision to make? He may run the studio, but it’s owned by Take-Two. If the studio is being folded, it’s because it make sense for Take-Two to do so.

I think it’s actually pretty cool to hear that Take-Two are willing to take the risk in indulging Levine on his next endeavour. In an age where the vast majority of the big publishers aren’t willing to take a risk and regurgitate the same content year after year, it’s nice to see someone’s willing to show a little loyalty to an employee who has brought them fantastic financial success. More power to him, I say.

Now there’s just the small matter of him making some new, successful games. :)

I wonder what this will mean for 2K Australia? Will they get to take a greater role in future Bioshock games?


Possibly it is also some sort of tax dodge?



Impossible. The guy’s name is “Ken Levine”.

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