Goodbye Ken Levine, and fare you well in your new endeavor: the guy whose credits include the original Thief, System Shock 2 (still my favorite Shock) and BioShock, and who founded Irrational Games 17 years ago out of the ashes of developer legend Looking Glass Studios, says he’s wrapping things up and heading for…well, the revolving door at publisher Take-Two.
He’s not leaving the publisher, in other words, but says he’ll let go of all but “about fifteen” members of Irrational Games’ development team to transition to new projects.
Here’s Levine addressing the “why”:
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.
I don’t know how many employees Irrational Games had exactly — LinkedIn lists “50-200.” Whatever the case, we’re talking a small army of extremely talented now-unemployed developers (if you want to hire one, Levine says to contact firstname.lastname@example.org). We’re also looking, incredibly, at the demise of BioShock as an Irrational property (Levine says he’s turned it over to 2K). I don’t know what happens to the other properties, like Freedom Force and SWAT; presumably they go (or already went), too.
Some are saying this means Irrational Games is no more — indeed, someone’s already jumped into the Wikipedia entry and changed “is” to “was.” Levine says no such thing in his statement. Instead, he says he’s “winding down Irrational Games as you know it.” Whether what emerges from the ashes is still called Irrational Games, or the studio name’s recycled elsewhere down the road, is, for the moment anyway, still a question mark.
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