Insiders Discuss the Closure of Irrational Games
Written Monday, March 10, 2014 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
This one’s been floating around for a few days now, so apologies if you’ve already seen it. But for those that missed it first time around it’s essential reading.
“According to those with whom we spoke,” says the report, “the closure was the combined result of unfettered creative freedom, lower-than-expected sales, the butting of heads between Levine and his employees and the unrealistic expectations of big-budget game development.”
A total of 70 permanent employees were made redundant, as well as a small amount of contractors. And internally, although there had been concerns about Irrational’s lack of activity following the completion of BioShock Infinite’s DLC, there was "a willful disbelief” at what happened.
According to the report, studio boss Ken Levine - his hands shaking - announced that Irrational was closing down to a silent room of shocked developers. "Some submitted to the idea that the company would live forever because they had shipped BioShock," said a source.
At the heart of the problem was Ken Levine’s perfectionism. He would demand endless iteration, regularly making developers re-do their work to more closely resemble his latest vision. "I realized that he's not someone you bullshit," said one source, "because he cares about that detail so much and really loves it when other people do too."
The report also supports the belief that without producer Rod Fergusson, who was drafted in from Epic Games late in development, BioShock Infinite would never have shipped. “If Thomas (Jordan Thomas, Creative Director at BioShock 2 dev 2K Marin) drew the map, then Fergusson established a final destination,” says the report.
However, when the game finally shipped, it didn’t sell as well as expected, Levine’s attentions were focused elsewhere and Irrational’s story came to an end.
You can find the full report through here. It’s the most exhaustive story on Irrational’s closure thus far and definitely worth a read.
Meanwhile, Ken Levine is now pursuing “narrative-driven", “highly replayable” digital games with a core of 15 surviving Irrational employees. You can read his statement through here.