Quincy video game developer Irrational Games is closing shop and turning over control of the popular “BioShock” franchise to a sister studio, cofounder Ken Levine said Tuesday.
Levine announced the move on his studio’s website (http://irrationalgames.com/), saying that he planned to launch a leaner venture focused on narrative gaming. He will retain about 15 employees for the new project but lay off most of the more than 100 people who work at Irrational.
“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,” Levine wrote. “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 founded Irrational Games with Jon Chey and Rob Fermier in 1997 and grew the business into a significant player in the video game world, producing hits like “System Shock 2,” “Freedom Force,” “SWAT 4” and “Tribes Vengeance.” The first-person shooter franchise “BioShock” was the biggest of all, generating more than $500 million in revenues since its debut in 2007.
Irrational is close to releasing the last update to “BioShock Infinite” and then will hand the reins to 2K Games, a fellow subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive. Levine said some Irrational employees may find work with other Take-Two studios, and he will hold a recruiting day for outside development houses to interview his staff.
The new venture will not develop games for sale at big-box retailers but rely instead on digital downloads. It will, however, remain under the Take-Two umbrella.
Irrational Games is not the only local studio going through a major restructuring this year. Cambridge-based Fire Hose Games is dropping the traditional model of in-house development to become an incubator for indie game developers (http://b.globe.com/N6PXH4). It will offer stipends, workspace, and mentoring at its Inman Square office in exchange for sharing the proceeds of successful games.