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Massive Layoffs Hit Irrational Games, Ken Levine Forming New Small Studio

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Ken Levine today announced that Irrational Games would be ‘winding down’, transforming the once massive company into a team of only 15. The bad news has delivered over at the Irrational Games website.

Check out an excerpt of his announcement below:

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. 

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.

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.

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. 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.

This is obviously terrible new for the people who have lost their jobs over at Irrational and for lovers of the BioShock franchise. Fans of the BioShock series might be comforted by the fact that the BioShock license has moved into 2K’s hands, meaning that there will be future games in the series, although without Levine at the helm who knows what they will be like.

I can’t help but feel that there was a better solution than firing all of these people, if Levine wanted to have a small team and create a new game why could he have not done that within Irrational? Leave the 100+ employees to make the next big BioShock game and create a splinter group with him and 15 others to create his own project. I hope we find out the reasoning behind his decision, it must not have been an easy one with so many peoples livelihoods on the line.

Let me know in the comments what you think about this situation. Do you think it was the right decision? Have you now lost faith in there ever being another great BioShock game?

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