An unknown ex-developer from the now closed Bioshock creators Irrational Games has been writing an article on hackernoon to express claim that publisher 2K Games are responsible not only for Irrational Games closure, but also for the tanked projects of Evolve, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, and Mafia 3.
The poster, under the username Mr TwoKay, claims to be an ex-irrational games developer who had been present through several major events in the past and slowly watched how 2K Games began to interfere in the games they published. He claims that when 2K first bought the studio they did as promised, at least at first:
" In July 2005 (although made public in Jan 2006) Take-Two Interactive bought Irrational Games. Irrational had been shopped out to SEGA, Take-Two Interactive and a few other publishers. Irrational needed to move away from independence — money was getting too tight and the independent studio model was collapsing around the world at the time. 2K made the best offer and promised hands-off support for our titles — this meant they would provide us with the money and resources to run the Boston and Canberra studios to build a hit game (BioShock!), as well as provide marketing and publishing support. We were then left to our own devices to do what we do best — make kick-ass games. This proved to be the case for the first BioShock game. 2K kept mostly out of it. And we made them a boat-load of cash."
After that point 2K Games began running interference after renaming several studios which the dev claims "We didn’t mind — they bought us — they could rename us — that was fair. While we were sad to say goodbye to the name Irrational, we were also proud to be a part of 2K Games." The publishers began to try their own hand at creating games with the formation of a new studio 2K Marin.
The then 2K Australia which was one of the original Irrational Games studios became a focal point for 2K's interference "2K Australia was again renamed — and this time by HQ to “2K Marin, Australia”. HQ wanted to take power from 2K Australia and this was one of the ways they did it. The XCOM project was handed to 2K Marin and Australia was told to follow their lead. 2K HQ wanted to try their hand at game development — this was their chance."
“The Bureau: XCOM Declassified” absolutely tanked. In October 2013 after the release of the game, 2K Marin was blamed for the blunder and closed. 2K Australia was also going to be shut down at this time but Ken Levine saved the day — Australia even got their old “2K Australia” name back when they moved onto a BioShock Infinite support role at Ken Levine’s request."
After the release of Bioshock Infinite, Ken Levine announced huge job losses at Irrational and a few years after he would leave himself. Levine has been quoted saying that when he looks back, working for 2k and working on the BioShock series has "aged him dramatically". Mr TwoKay even writes that "Basically what had happened was that Ken had been pushed past his limits with the stress of running BioShock Infinite — the team was so huge and unwieldy that he wanted to go back to basics and build a game with a skeleton crew like in the old days. He basically tried to quit, but 2K said “no, don’t go, you can do whatever you want — just stay with us.”
"2K should have managed that situation better. If you have a big team who work well together in Boston, why not put a new studio head at the top and keep the team together? It could still be called Irrational — it would still have the majority of the original staff. Then Ken could go and do his thing, and everyone else could continue to do theirs — you know — making successful games for 2K…"
The post goes on to say that the studios responsible for some of the most influential and most successful 2K projects no longer exist. They were "dismantled, one way or another, by 2K. Is this really how a studio acquisition is supposed to go? Pay millions for a talented independent studio, let the people make you giant profits for a decade, and then shut all those people out of jobs before they get the chance to make you more money? Sounds like grave management incompetence to me."
he goes on "By the way, does anyone know why XCOM tanked? I know — I was there: It is because out of the above titles, it is the only title where 2K HQ felt obliged to get their hands dirty with the development. They turned the product around several times for reboots, and completely took creative control out of the hands of the developers, even going so far as to change the name of the lead studio to “2K Marin, Australia” — just so the Australian studio knew they were no longer in charge."
The poster writes that even the 2K games CEO got confused "It seems as though even CEO Strauss Zelnick can’t keep up with the studios opening and closing and changing names — In May 2014, Strauss stated that 2K Marin would be working on future BioShock titles. Umm, what? 2K Marin had already been closed for over 6 months at that point! He must be confused — I don’t blame him for not keeping up considering the amount of shutting down, streamlining and renaming his little 2K headquarters has done."
The article rounds off with a personal message from the poster "Some people have asked me why I wrote this, and what do I stand to gain from writing such a piece. The truth is that Irrational Games was more than a job to most of us. It was our lives. Certainly, at the time I dedicated myself to the company because I (perhaps naively) thought I was changing the world. Irrational Games had that power over people — we were talented, young, inspired and… Sure we were naive too — but that is also what made us so great. We were naive enough to attempt the impossible — and while it damned near killed us at times —we pulled it off."
While certainly an interesting article and that's fairly negative and accusatory at 2K games, the article's authenticity has been called into question. Bioshock level designer Steve Lee tweeted “Discussion and observations among many ex-Irrationals indicate this is very very likely to be fake, fyi.” However, others have come out in support of the article such as 3D Realms founder George Broussard who tweeted “2K is a really shitty company. Someday I will write up how evil they were to us.”
Big triple A publishers are known for their aggressive acquisitions that usually end up with the closures of the original studio, for proof one need just glance at EA's history with the likes of studios like Westwood. Whether the article is genuine or not, it still raises legitimate questions about how triple A publishers who are marketers and financiers stick their hands into the development of games which causes them to fail.