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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Irrational Games, Makers of Bioshock, Shutting Down

Posted by on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 1:49 PM

The big news in the video game world today came to us via text from a friend at a game studio: "The studio that made Bioshock Infinite just shut down… They're switching to mini mobile games and only keeping 15 employees."

In an open letter posted on Irrational Games' web site, founder and studio head Ken Levine said he wants to "refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience."

Irrational started in 1999 but is best known for the Bioshock series, the first of which was released in 2007. The series began in Rapture, an under-water city built on Ayn Rand-ian philosophy that's suffering the consequences of those values. Most recently it took players to Columbia, a floating cloud-city that is one part Tea Party and one part Mormon in a setting out of The Music Man. Irrational's final contribution to the series will be part two of "Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea," downloadable content available next month.

2K, the studio that published all three Bioshock releases and developed Bioshock 2, will be taking over the franchise. We are curious to see what happens, as Bioshock 2, the only one with which Irrational was not involved, is generally considered the weakest of the three by rabid fans.

In a postscript Levine put the word out to recruiters and other studios suggesting they interview those employees who were laid off. Hearsay has it that the gaming community is also rallying around them, providing them with job leads and other moral support.

More on this developing story here, here, here, here and all around the web wherever nerds congregate.

The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner, Paul Hughes, and Mary Traverse.


Comments (11) RSS

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Gordon Werner 1
are they Seattle based?
Posted by Gordon Werner on February 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM · Report this
Indighost 2
Meh, bioshock was always just a watered-down, over-produced, big-business remake of System Shock / Deus Ex for casuals anyways.
Posted by Indighost on February 18, 2014 at 1:59 PM · Report this
I've only played a few hours of Bioshock Infinite, but I love it so far.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 18, 2014 at 2:09 PM · Report this
Bioshock 2 was the weakest, but it was still damn fun.
Posted by Super Cool Charlie on February 18, 2014 at 2:45 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 5
Awfully near the end of Infinite I simply couldn't go on. The combat was predictable, for the life of me I couldn't keep up with the plot any more, and my mind insisted on starting to forget details about the characters. I hoped they were really going somewhere with the pointed social references but it's as if they were style gestures rather than underpinnings of the story.

One day I may have to steel myself and just finish it on the remote chance it comes together.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on February 18, 2014 at 3:00 PM · Report this
I really liked the first one, thought the second one was ok, and played the third one for maybe ten minutes. Very boring. That series needs to go away 5 or 10 years and then come back with something fresh.
Posted by ryanmm on February 18, 2014 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Interesting. Not too long ago Atlus, the makers of the popular Persona series was having financial troubles as well. Luckily they got bought, I guess, by a company that wants to do well by the franchise.

What's the common denominator between video game companies that make a massively popular franchise turning around and either filing for bankruptcy or shutting down?
Posted by Drew2u on February 18, 2014 at 3:55 PM · Report this
@5 Some here. I ended up just watching the ending on YouTube. Saved me a lot of time and frustration. (And the ending still doesn't explain everything)
Posted by fricktor on February 18, 2014 at 3:59 PM · Report this
"2 is considered the worst by fans."

Really? I've only heard the most recent was the worst, by far.…
Posted by GermanSausage on February 18, 2014 at 4:14 PM · Report this
emor 10
Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful game but I thought it was a huge disappointment. The gameplay seemed stale with endless arena style combat and the RPGesque elements (that were once the hallmark of the "Shock" games) almost entirely removed. The world simply wasn't as well-realized as the first game, either. None of the characters were terribly compelling. While I enjoyed watching the hyperviolence implicit in Columbia's society become explicit, the nonstop murderfest gameplay was somewhat jarring and mostly boring.

Frankly, I have a feeling whatever game Ken Levine makes next is going to be better than Infinite.
Posted by emor on February 18, 2014 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Knat 11
I never liked the "feel" of the Bioshock games - the animations felt too snappy to me, like everyone was in a Chuck Avery cartoon or something - but I blamed that on the engine. The story and environments were pretty strong though. I'm disappointed to find out about this, but I do have to admit that I couldn't keep my attention on Bioshock Infinite for more than about 30 minutes at a time. Maybe it was because I'd just finished The Last of Us right beforehand, but I did find it paled in comparison to what I'd been told to expect.
Posted by Knat on February 18, 2014 at 11:57 PM · Report this

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