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Last week brought some very sad news. You can read about all the details here but the short of it is this, Irrational Games as we know it is no more. Ken Levine will be working with a smaller team and BioShock‘s future is in the hands of 2K Games now. So what does this all mean? Let’s first start with Irrational Games.
Ken announced he was “winding down the company” and will continue to work at Take Two with a smaller team of around fifteen people. Of course the worst part about this is many talented people will be losing their jobs and that really sucks. After building a huge team to finish BioShock Infinite, it was no surprise that they couldn’t keep the same team and lots of other development studios have already reached out to the effected team members in looking to recruit these people. Whether Ken will keep the Irrational name is still unclear, but it is unlikely at this point and it is a real shame this great studio is no more.
Hopefully all the developers will find work at other studios or perhaps even make their own, smaller indie studios. Maybe we get a bunch of new indie games come out of Boston due to this closure and it creates the next indie boom within the industry.
Arguably the most interesting aspect of this news is what Ken Levine does next within the industry. Ken is, in my opinion, one of the true auteurs of video game development and one of a very select few that I would argue could stand among the best film directors around. It is no surprise to me he has been tapped up by the film industry to write the script for the re-imagining of Logan’s Run.
With this project already ongoing I wouldn’t be surprised if Ken isn’t entirely ready to jump back into another project like Infinite that took around six years to complete. A smaller team to start pre-production makes complete sense and as the years and development ramps up they can always recruit when necessary.
And of course there is the future of BioShock games, which in complete uncertainty. With 2K acquiring the rights, you can guarantee we will see more games and don’t be shocked if it comes in the near future. It is well documented that Infinite wasn’t profitable after it’s long development period and they will want to gain more on that investment as soon as possible.
A sequel set in Columbia that uses all the previous assets and animations seems almost too easy for 2K to make within a pretty short time. It is highly unlikely that whoever the new studio that takes over the franchise will build their own world rather than just borrow from both Rapture and Columbia, an interesting idea could be a game that takes place in both worlds at the same time.
The positive is that the possibilities are endless and the thought of revisiting Columbia certainly doesn’t feel contrived at this point. Without the sense of wonder or the incredible narrative of Infinite the game certainly wont feel the same, but the amount of things still to explore definitely leaves future games with way more potential than you might first think, even without Ken at the helm.
I absolutely adore BioShock Infinite as a video game and won’t shy away from calling it one of my favorite games of all time. The fact that this news has happened is really unfortunate but also adds to the entire Infinite story. This game is fascinating from a development standpoint and we might not see chances taken of a huge ambitious project like this one for a very long time, at least outside of maybe one or two studios.
Hopefully the news doesn’t have a negative effect on the game’s lineage and be remembered as the project that killed the studio but rather something special that might not ever be recreated. The game sold well but with the costs over the years mounting it really needed to ship 15 million plus to become profitable, something which is just impossible.
I hope every single person that worked on the game that was laid off finds themselves a worthy project now this chapter has ended. Hopefully Ken Levine continues to put his creative output in this industry rather than elsewhere, be it smaller projects or ones of this scale. And I really hope that whoever takes over the BioShock franchise treats it with half the amount of care and love that it’s previous owners did with it.