In an unexpected move, Ken Levine has posted an open letter via Irrational Games website announcing that he is winding down the company that he founded 17 years ago to form a new new studio focused on digitally delivered, narrative focused games.
Irrational Games was founded in 1997 by former Looking Glass Studios employees Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier. Most famous for their recent output, the critically acclaimed Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite, Irrational Games were also the genius behind the classic cyberpunk action-RPG System Shock 2 and the comic book inspired tactical-RPG Freedom Force series.
Via the open letter 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. 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 is to head up a new small-scale operation with around 15 of the Irrational Games team to focus on solely digitally delivered “narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable”. The new operation will remain under the Take-Two Interactive umbrella, with the reins of the Bioshock universe being passed on to 2K Games so that the new company can “focus entirely on replayable narrative”.
This means that approximately 80 of the 95 Irrational Games employees will be let go, but to aid them in their search for a new home Take-Two will be hosting a recruitment day to allow 3rd party studios and publishers a chance to interview the outgoing staff. Studios such as Harmonix, who are currently focusing on their own Unreal Engine 4 powered shooter Chroma, and Naughty Dog wasted no time in extending an olive branch via twitter to those who are to be let go.