A new post is making the rounds, calling out 2K Games for the continued struggles of developers, including the closing of Irrational Games and even the recent poor performance of Mafia III. It was posted from an anonymous source claiming to be a former employee of Irrational Games, the makers of BioShock. Whether real or not, the post is garnering attention and shining an unfavorable light on the publishing company.
“I am a life long video game developer. I worked for Irrational Games before they were a part of 2K. I also worked for them during their time with 2K, and I even worked with them as they shut down the final reminiscence of what used to be Irrational Games,” the letter reads, posted to Hackernoon.
From there, it details the course of events from Irrational being purchased by Take-Two Interactive in 2006, through the successful release of BioShock, and on into the eventual virtual closure of the studio (laying off all but 15 employees) in 2014.
Early on, “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.”
The letter claims it was when 2K began to take a more hands on approach with games that things fell apart. “2K HQ wanted to try their hand at game development — [The Bureau: XCOM Declassified] was their chance.”
Unfortunately, the game “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.”
According to the letter, things only got worse following Infinite however. “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…”
Looking at 2K’s list of closed studios, with special consideration given to the 2015 closer of 2K Australia following the arguably well-received Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the letter asks, “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.”
Continuing, “Perhaps this is why Mafia III and Evolve also lost so much money. 2K HQ doesn’t seem to be afraid to try out their artistic streak — even if it costs the shareholders hundreds of millions of dollars, costs the jobs of hundreds of developers, and costs the reputation of 2K as an employer.”
Former Irrational developer and current Senior Level Designer for Dishonored 2 Steve Lee has taken to Twitter claiming the post is likely a fake.
@georgeb3dr Discussion and observations among many ex-Irrationals indicate this is very very likely to be fake, fyi
— Steve Lee (@essell2) October 28, 2016
Even if it is however, many gamers still seem convinced. “I used to think 2K is one of the good publishers. I guess the only good publisher is the dead publisher e.g. THQ,” one reddit user wrote. “This only adds to my long term suspicions that the developer-publisher relationship is absolutely toxic,” responded another.
Mafia III is the latest 2K Games release, sitting at a lukewarm 62 on Metacritic. Meanwhile, Turtle Rock, the team behind the 2K published Evolve, announced last week that they would be stepping away from the project. After Evolve went free-to-play on PC in July, the developer has canceled all plans to bring the updates to console and will no longer be supporting the game.