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Irrational games, the major game studio behind the Bioshock games, is essentially closing down according to Ken Levine who says, “I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers,” which basically means that he is laying off nearly everyone except 15 people. This is a very strange piece of news that I didn’t expect at all. Is it because Bioshock Infinite didn’t sell well? Is it because Ken Levine simply wants to take himself creatively somewhere else? It just leaves so many questions to be asked.
Bioshock has sold over 4 million copies. Bioshock Infinite also has sold over 4 million copies. So what happened? Is this the current state of triple A games? Do they need to sell even more than that? I find that hard to believe. 4 million copies is a lot of copies. Seriously. A lot of copies. That’s better than a lot of games do. A lot of people have lost jobs from this since Irrational was obviously a huge team making big budget games. Is it simply a change of creative vision for Ken Levine? It might be.
Triple A games are in a strange state. They cost a lot of money to make and it’s a huge risk to try and get one to do well, which is why the push for smaller games continues to happen. The indie game market is constantly expanding more and more and it makes me wonder if there is a proper in between of Triple A and indie. Sometimes that it is hard to see, it seems like it’s either a lot of money or not so much money involved. It shows a certain shift in game development, maybe the triple A game doesn’t always work. Maybe it isn’t the best way for a game to be made and maybe working with smaller budgets is the ideal way to go.
Bioshock Infinite is a high note to go out on and I could understand why you might not want to make another Bioshock game especially with the ending of Infinite but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people are losing jobs who did a lot of great, creative things with these games. And that’s the thing that makes me most sad about this news is that I’m not entirely sure these job that people lost were necessary. Infinite made over a half billion dollars which makes me concerned that none of this really had to do with money and more of a creative shift. Regardless, it’s a very strange piece of news that I didn’t expect and just leaves me questioning: why? It is very weird. I wish I had a better answer than that. I guess I’m still excited to see where Ken Levine goes next and I wish the rest of the staff at Irrational the best of luck.