Ken Levine, the founder and head of Irrational Games, released a stunning press release Tuesday, that Irrational Games will be laying off all but 15 people after the final DLC released for”Bioshock Infinite”.
“Bioshock” and its sequel “Bioshock Infinite” (“Bioshock 2” was handled by a different developer) are two of the most critically acclaimed games released for the previous generation of systems (PS3, X360, Wii), making the news a bit of a shock to many in the industry, no pun intended.
As Kev Levine put it, “I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it. I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two. That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team. There’s no great way to lay people off, and our first concern is to make sure that the people who are leaving have as much support as we can give them during this transition.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Irrational Games is being dissolved as it has been reported. But it is definitely being stripped down, not even to the core, but to a shell of a core. A developer of 16 people is not going to be capable of pulling off a AAA “Bioshock Infinite” type of title. 16 people are barely enough to release a non-“Flappy Bird” mobile game these days. It’s clear that Levine aims to move things in a different direction, for himself and his company. The comment “In time we will announce a new endeavor with a new goal: 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” makes Levine’s intent clear.
As for the many members of Irrational who are losing their jobs, Levine said that “Besides financial support, the staff will have access to the studio for a period of time to say their goodbyes and put together their portfolios. Other Take-Two studios will be on hand to discuss opportunities within the company, and we’ll be hosting a recruiting day where we’ll be giving 3rd party studios and publishers a chance to hold interviews with departing Irrational staff.”
Still, has to be a heavy blow for a lot of employees who have worked hard on Bioshock over the years to be told they’re out of a job, especially in a still-struggling economy, and a videogame industry that punishes failure over AAA titles severely. It’s possible that the half a billion dollars in revenue Bioshock has generated (referenced by Levine himself) was not enough to justify Irrational Games making another Bioshock entry.
Still, today, whatever Irrational Games winds up becoming, the video game industry as we know it has just changed in a dramatic fashion. Levine’s surprisingly, twisting narratives would be proud.