Yesterday's surprise news that Irrational Games, the studio behind the lauded BioShock series, is shutting down raised a number of questions, including what will become of the people who worked there making games.
While Irrational creative director Ken Levine will forge a new, much smaller outfit dedicated to making downloadable narrative-based games, most of the rest of the Irrational team will have to find jobs in the gaming industry beyond, if they stick around to keep making games.
A lot remains unclear about how the Irrational shutdown decision was made, how it was handled, if BioShock Infinite's critical or commercial performance was a factor, how the game's publisher factored into the decision, how much of this was Levine's call, and so on. We've asked around and, for better or worse, answers have been hard to come by. It's not even been clear how many people were still working at Irrational. Estimates of the number of ex-Irrational who were laid off yesterday have ranged well past 150, but a source familiar with the situation told me that the number is closer to 50-75. That's not as bad as the rumors, but that's still a lot of people.
Shortly after the news of the shutdown hit yesterday, Twitter was astir with postings from other game studios letting the ex-Irrational people know they were hiring. Levine himself also publicly posted the following message on Facebook last night, letting any potential employer know about an upcoming "Outplacement Open House" a week from today:
Thank you for all the kind words and support today.
It would mean a lot to me personally if you could reach out on twitter to members of the team and tell them how much their work has affected you. If you don't know any team member's twitters, tweet at me @iglevine and i will retweet your thoughts.
I want to turn every industry person's attention to our external recruiting day which will happen right after the 2K/Rockstar recruiting day. We've already received hundreds of inquiries about it, but just wanted to make sure you all have the info:
"In order to help our affected employees find new work opportunities, 2K will be hosting an Outplacement Open House at Irrational Games on Weds 2/26/14. If you would like to join us to meet our impacted employees, let us know and we will send you the details of where and when, and reserve a space for your company.
Please RSVP directly to Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org & cc: Aly.email@example.com
We will need your company name, and names of all your employees who plan to attend, along with a URL for your career website or homepage. "
I know we've got a good number of game creators among our readership, so if the above is relevant to you as a worker or a boss, you can take action.
And for our readers who simply love playing games, there's hope here that the people who make the games you enjoy will land on their feet and be able to make some more. We see a lot of game studios shut down year after year, which can certainly be unnerving for players out there. Why this keeps happening and what this means for the games you play is a thread that will surely weave through so many of the stories we continue to report.