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BioShock dev Irrational Games to close

BioShock IP 'handed to 2K' as Ken Levine starts smaller studio

Irrational Games, the studio behind the BioShock series, will close down as its founder Ken Levine commits to a "new venture" with a smaller studio.

Levine made the announcement today via a lengthy web post, detailing plans to shut the BioShock studio and form a new outfit made up of "about fifteen members of the Irrational team", with a focus on "narrative-driven" digital games "that are highly replayable".

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Levine confirmed that his new studio will be started under the wing of Irrational Games parent firm Take-Two. A focus on download-only titles was confirmed, but Levine made no reference to any specific platforms.

Here's are the key excerpts of Levine's announcement:

"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.

"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."

Levine admitted to CVG during an interview last year that having spent many years on the BioShock series was taking its toll, and the developer was engaged in discussion over what to do next.

"These projects, they certainly take a lot out of you," Levine told CVG. "Y'know, we're talking internally about what's next. And I think there's a question of what makes sense for us, what makes sense in terms of where the industry is going. There's a lot of questions about what the right platform is. I remember when we were just making PC games and our team was thinking, well, is this the right thing to do?"

He went on, "I certainly think there's a lot of macro questions about what the industry should be pursuing. I think we should be careful at the very beginning of a project to make sure we're not building in a format that people aren't going to enjoy or have access to. What I'm trying to say is, scale is the issue. There are lots of different ways to make core games for people. I don't personally have too much an interest in making iOS games, but if I did they would be very core oriented."

Levine co-founded Boston-based Irrational Games in 1997, before publishing its first title, System Shock 2, in 1999. It remained a PC-focused developer with games like Freedom Force, Tribes Vengeance and SWAT 4, until Take-Two acquired the studio in 2006, when it began work on its now iconic BioShock franchise for PC and consoles.

The studio's last game, BioShock Infinite, was released in March 2013 to widespread critical acclaim, receiving a 9.1/10 score in CVG's review. Irrational will release the last BioShock Infinite DLC expansion, titled 'Burial at Sea - Episode Two', on March 25 priced at $14.99 USD / £11.99 for PSN, Xbox Live and PC.

The PS3 version of BioShock Infinite is currently free to PlayStation Plus subscribers as part of the PSN Instant Game Collection.

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