In an open letter posted on the Irrational Games website today, co-founder and creative director Ken Levine announced that the studio is going away in its current form. According to Levine, Irrational Games will be replaced with a "more entrepreneurial endeavor" within Take-Two.
"I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it," writes Levine. "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."
"Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one," he adds. "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. 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."
Levine says he's sticking with around fifteen members of the current Irrational Games, but the studio will help the other employees find new positions elsewhere. This includes opportunities at other Take-Two studios, like the new developer 2K just opened in the San Francisco Bay area. That studio was headed up by Gears of War series producer Rod Fergusson just over six months ago, but he recently left to shepherd the Gears of War series at Microsoft.
The Bioshock brand will remain with 2K. The publisher will probably put it with some other developer, since Bioshock Infinite made truckloads of money.
"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," says Levine.
So what's next for Levine and his remaining crew? Apparently, he's trying to create narrative games that are highly-replayable, an idea he mentioned in November of last year to VG 247.
"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," he writes.
"When I first contemplated what I wanted to do, it became very clear to me that we were going to need a long period of design. Initially, I thought the only way to build this venture was with a classical startup model, a risk I was prepared to take. But when I talked to Take-Two about the idea, they 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."
It's an odd end to Irrational Games. We here at USgamer hope those affected by the changes find new work soon.