Irrational games was founded seventeen years ago by Jon Chey, Rob Fermier and Ken Levine with a mission to create visually unique worlds. With irrational having seemingly almost limitless cash flow duration the creation of the Bioshock franchise they have decided to wind down the studio.
In a statement from Ken Levine he mentions that seventeen years is a long time in any job. Levine believes to achieve this he must refocus his energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure. He will be keeping only fifteen members which is a huge cut from a large studio. Levine hopes to create more narrative games with the new team that aimed at the core gamer and have replay ability. Levine did not like the way that Elizebeth performs the same way for everyone who plays the game. With the new studio the games will offer variation of narrative content. The games produced will now only be delivered digitally which hints that it may be aimed more at the mobile market.
One other reason for this shut down could be the trouble that Bioshock infinite went through during development. This was no secret in the games industry with multiple delays and features that were later scrapped. During this development stage the studio had around two hundred people working on the game. Levine has said that the people affected by the layoff will not be forgotten and will offer support such as use of the studio during the transition period. Irrational have also set up a career day which around 50 publishers and 112 studios have signed up for.
Levine was one of the Major forces in Irrational with him undoubtedly being one of the best writers in the games industry. Levine has success with game such as Thief and System shock, (the spiritual predecessor to Bioshock) all these game had a talking point. With Levine’s new adventure he is no longer stuck with the Bioshock universe and is free to explore new and creative ways to deliver games to the core gamer.
There have been many successes with alumni from big studios going on to make successful indie games. One such story was Steve Gaynor a former irrational employee who went on to make the hit game Gone Home. There is also Lucas Pope who left Naught Dog to create papers please the surprise hit of 2013.
This does not mean that the Bioshock franchise is over as 2K Games still owns the right to the series. We could see in the future one of 2K many other studios take over a popular vote would be one of the Rockstar studios.
With many studios shutting down and big games having astronomical budgets that could be difficult to make back is it worth focusing on small games with small teams. Over the next few years we could carry on seeing this shift from big AAA studios and see them focusing on cheaper more creative games.