Barack Obama 2008

The release of the original BioShock doesn’t feel that far in the past, at least to me — but the game hit North American retailers on Aug. 21, 2007. That’s almost exactly five years and seven months ago.

That may not seem like a long time, but think about it this way: President Barack Obama hadn’t even won the Democratic nomination for the 2008 election when developer Irrational games released BioShock. He has since served out a full term, which didn’t begin until January 2009, was reelected, and sworn in for a second time earlier this year.

Irrational Games BioShock InfiniteIn all that time, Irrational Games has not released a single product.

The studio didn’t start work on Infinite immediately after finishing BioShock. Irrational creative director Ken Levine told gaming website CVG that the team spent the first six months after BioShock prototyping ideas for a followup.

But that still means that Irrational spent the last five years working on one game.

Of course, publisher 2K released a BioShock 2 from developer 2K Marin in February 2010, but that doesn’t change the fact that Levine and his team had half of a decade to polish its triple-A first-person shooter.

For further perspective, here is a list of other things that have happened between BioShock’s Aug. 21 debut and BioShock Infinite’s March 26 release:

  • On Aug. 21, the original iPhone was only 2 months old, and Apple wouldn’t unveil the App Store for another year.
  • Activision hadn’t even released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare yet.
  • Developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch have each released three Call of Duty games in the time between BioShock and BioShock Infinite.
  • Capcom released five Resident Evil games. That doesn’t include HD remakes (which would bring it to seven).
  • Paramount released the first Transformers movie around the same time as BioShock’s debut. It has since released two additional films.
  • Sony Pictures released Spider-Man 3 and then rebooted the film franchise.
  • Developer Naughty Dog released three Uncharted games.
  • Epic released three Gears of War games.
  • Microsoft released four Halo first-person shooters and a real-time strategy title. That doesn’t include the HD remake of the original Halo.
  • Publisher THQ went from $300 a share in Aug. 2007 to bankruptcy.
  • The average child born on BioShock’s release date is now around 43-inches tall.

Irrational is not the first developer to take a long time to produce one game, but the practice seems a bit anachronistic in an age of free-to-play games-as-services and annual releases from Activision and Ubisoft.

BioShock Infinite looks like a very expensive game. The duration of the development only amplifies those costs. That’s probably a big reason why Take-Two Interactive (the publisher that oversees 2K Games) is working so hard to sell the game to a broad audience.

Levine admitted that Irrational designed the box art to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Now, online retailers are giving away up to three additional full games (including the recent XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the original BioShock) just for preordering the game.

It’s clear that Irrational got a lot of leeway to make the game they wanted, but it’s also clear that is has to hit big.