The studio behind the seminal video game series BioShock is "winding down," series creator and studio co-founder Ken Levine announced Tuesday.
Irrational Games, which developed the original BioShock and its successor BioShock Infinite -- two of the most successful and critically celebrated games of their generation -- will be closing after 17 years so Levine can focus on a "smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two."
Irrational parent company 2K Games, itself a subsidiary of publisher Take-Two Interactive, will be laying off all but 15 members of the team. Levine has chosen to hand over the BioShock series to 2K for further development, as was the case when 2K developed and released the BioShock sequel in 2010 without Levine's involvement.
Levine stressed his studio's commitment to taking care of its laid-off employees:
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.
The BioShock series has one more release to its name -- the second half of the BioShock Infinite "Burial At Sea" DLC to be released digitally on March 25. After wrapping up that final release, Levine said his focus could finally turn to "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," he said in the announcement.
Levine originally planned on launching his new venture as a traditional startup considering the amount of time he estimated he would need for development, but discovered that Take-Two was willing to fund the initiative. "They [Take-Two] 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," he said.
"Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one. And working with the incredible team at Irrational Games is indeed the best job I've ever had. While I'm deeply proud of what we've accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we've done before," Levine outlined. "To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.
"If we're lucky, we'll build something half as memorable as BioShock," he said, closing out the message.