How 2K Killed Irrational Games 

Irrational Games is responsible for some amazing video games, including System Shock 2, the Freedom Force series, and the BioShock series, but the unfortunate reality is that the studio didn't even last a decade following its acquisition by 2K Games. How could something like that happen to a studio that created some of the most heralded games of our time and have sold millions of units? Interestingly enough, we're able to glean some insight into the events that took place during those ten years, as one former employee - allegedly, of course, and remaining anonymous - has penned an account of what happened. A sampling of what to expect:

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.

In August 2007 when BioShock was released: Irrational Games was renamed to 2K Boston and 2K Australia — a move by HQ to try and associate the 2K brand name with the pending Bioshock series. [2] 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.

BioShock — a joint venture between 2K Boston (lead studio) and 2K Australia (support studio) was released to world wide critical acclaim. The game did amazingly well and we were all very proud of what we did. We were one happy team back then and some of my best memories with 2K are from this time period. They, after all, had given us the money and the marketing to make this the success it was — we helped each other — and together we succeeded.


From the original purchase date of Irrational Games in July 2005, it took less than 10 years for 2K to snuff out the final employees that made up what was Irrational Games. With over 15 million units sold and the invention of the new series that will live in the gaming hall of fame that is BioShock, one can only pose the question — how is this a sound management strategy — and why would a publisher do this?

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.