BioShock Co-Devs 2K Australia Closing After 15 Years

So that's why they call it Oceania.

Irrational Games as we know it closed in February, though the BioShock studio lives on in a way with a small group of survivors under Ken Levine at a new team within 2K. Once upon a time, though, there were two Irrationals. A Canberra arm of Irrational was founded in 2000, then later renamed 2K Australia. It mostly worked with Irrational and other 2K studios, on games from Freedom Force to BioShock Infinite, but most recently was behind Borderlands: The Pre-sequel. And now it’s gone too.

Parent company 2K Games have confirmed that they’re closing the studio and laying off the staff. Sounds like it was too expensive for them, and too remote.

A 2K representative issued this official statement to Kotaku Australia following rumours:

“We can confirm we have taken steps to begin the studio closure process for 2K Australia in order to better manage ongoing development costs while improving the working proximity of our creative teams. We are very grateful for the team’s valuable contributions to numerous 2K projects, and are working with affected staff to explore reassignment opportunities where possible.”

Unnamed sources told the site that 2K had planned to move the studio 300 miles (500 kilometres) to the city of Melbourne in the hope of attracting new folks (anecdotally, I hear Canberra is not the most exciting place to live). Instead, the source claims, this plan prompted many high-level folks to leave the studio. And then 2K decided to close it down instead. So they say, anyway. That Ian Video Games sure does get around, or Izza Game-o as they call him down under.

The studio seemed never to have something truly its own, or even a firm identity. Staring as part of Irrational, it was renamed 2K Australia in 2007 when the Boston headquarters became 2K Boston too. When Boston became Irrational once more in 2010, Australia stayed under that name for a few months, until it joined the banner of 2K Marin. The studio had worked with Marin on BioShock 2, and they were working together on the game that’d eventually become The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. And then it became 2K Australia again. 2K Marin is also essentially gone. Australia had been the last bastion of Irrational. That’s a whole lot of studios 2K is now down.

Best of luck to all affected by this.

I’m sure we’ll see a fair few interesting teeny studios and games come out of this. Folks going indie after leaving Irrational and Marin, by choice or not, have been working on some cracking-looking games. Jordan Thomas started on The Magic Circle after leaving Marin, The Flame in the Flood is by former Irrational folks, The Fullbright Company (several of whom I’m pals with, I should say) gave us Gone Home and are now working on Tacoma, Albino Lullaby‘s team includes some of that lot, there’s Eldritch and Neon Struct from Minor Key Games, I want to see more of what Dim Bulb (also pally with) are up to, The Black Glove sadly failed its Kickstarter, and oh there are many more I’ve forgotten. Hopefully I can add some from 2K Australia folk to that list soon.

52 Comments

  1. eggy toast says:

    All three Bioshock games were terrible and the Borderlands Prequel is the worst game in a series of terrible, terrible games.

    Hopefully the closure of this studio that produced horrible games will free up the employees to find work making games that don’t suck.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Maybe they could come round to yours and squeeze some grapes into your mouth to get rid of some of that bitterness.

      • eggy toast says:

        Maybe the could produce better work and keep their company open

        • Premium User Badge

          Craig Pearson says:

          You just bitched about them working on one of the most acclaimed and best-selling game series of all time.

          • eggy toast says:

            I have never, ever, ever heard anyone act like Borderlands was something serious to be impressed about so you must mean Bioshock?

            The games are all horrible, the gunplay is shit, the writing is shit, it’s shit all the way down. The fact that lots of impressionable idiots liked it does not change that in any way.

          • eggy toast says:

            50 Shades sold massively well and I’m sure got lots of good reviews from the types of people who write positive reviews for things people are already buying, would you be sad if after 15 years of shitting out sequels the people who make those lost their jobs? Are the books good, somehow, because they sold many copies to people who are apparently very stupid?

          • Premium User Badge

            Craig Pearson says:

            Ah, so you’re ignoring all the praise that BioShock gets? Good to know.

          • rabbit says:

            Disagreeing with it rather than ignoring it, which is within his rights.

            Not to say I agree with him completely … I find borderlands dull and Bioshock overhyped to say the least but to say that they were total shit is a bit of a stretch.

          • RQH says:

            It’s within his rights to disagree with it, but he sounds like a complete idiot when he tries to build the claim that the studio closed because he thinks these games are terrible, even though that’s an opinion that runs against what most people thought. And that’s not even accounting for the much less disputable fact that these games sold quite well. Publishers generally only worry about whether the game was any good in terms of the metacritic rating, and they generally only worry about that if the game misses sales projections.

            I can speak from firsthand experience on the difficulty of developing games across vast time differences. It’s exhausting and makes it very difficult to keep a singular vision in place. It does sound like expense + hassle reached critical mass and motivated the closure, rather than the sales figures themselves. Which is another thing: publishers generally believe that talent is interchangeable, save for a few select “names.” (Like Ken Levine.) So, even if 2K Australia had produced best-selling games that even eggy toast loved, it’s likely the parent company still could have decided it wasn’t worth it, canned most if not all of the staff, and relocated a select few to closer shores.

          • eggy toast says:

            It’s funny how many people want to argue against things I didn’t say, apparently because they cannot argue with what I said.

            What I said is, who cares if these idiots lost their jobs, they produced bad work. No amount of units sold or reviews written by imbeciles will make Bioshock anything but shlock, but by all means keep pretending that Dragon Age 2 is a masterpiece since it sold very well and got amazingly good reviews.

        • RobF says:

          “who cares if these idiots lost their jobs, they produced bad work”

          Me for one. Losing your job is a fucking horrible thing to happen, especially when in games there’s no guarantees that a parent company keeps your studio open and won’t fuck you no matter what you do so you just do the best you can, so often with everything piled against you.

          I can well understand not liking the work they produce, I can’t for a single solitary second wrap my head around the sheer callousness and lack of empathy for so many people finding themselves without a wage now.

          Just, fucking hell, you know?

        • BigDaddy0451 says:

          Their company is still open, and claiming that Bioshock, one of the highest selling video games ever, is bad just shows what an idiot you are.

    • Xocrates says:

      I’m actually surprised to ear you bought and played through 6 rather long games in series you clearly hate.

      • eggy toast says:

        Gamers are idiots by definition so I don’t see why it would surprise you.

        Also after the first 30 min of any Borderlands game you’ve seen all of every Borderlands game.

        • Xocrates says:

          Can you even unlock your character Action Skill in the first 30 minutes?

          • eggy toast says:

            If you want to claim Borderlands has depth of gameplay you should really come right out and say it and defend it, not just try to act like I’m wrong when they’re very clearly all the same game.

            You want to point out the 3 differences between Saint’s Row 3 and 4, and pretend it wasn’t just a reskinned DLC, too?

          • Xocrates says:

            Naw, I’m having more fun this way.

          • SuicideKing says:

            The worst thing I would say about Borderlands 2 is “Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode”. Their coop isn’t perfect either when different leveled players play together.

            Otherwise it’s quite a lovely game with much varied and excellent writing and characters, and it’s a lot of fun to play. It’s the kind of shooter I play when I just want to de-stress and shoot forever.

            Never played the other Borderlands, or any BioShock (too scared lol). But 320+ hours between two characters is telling (also some time with the Assassin which I disliked enough to start over after lv 17).

        • Gravy100 says:

          stop ruining the delicious concept of eggy toast, eggy toast

    • Nereus says:

      You wot m8?

      While I felt the original bioshock was overhyped, and bioshock 2 was great, but not incredible, infinite was amazing. You can make the claim about borderlands being the same game, and it is, its main offering is multiplayer. But in no way should it be compared to bioshock, which as a series featured beautifully directed art styles from different places and ranged from the creepy atmosphere of rapture while being chased by lumbering mechanized sentries, to the superficially beautiful and cheery world of Columbia. And the writing is some of the best I’ve seen in any video game. Is it the best? No. But especially in the realm of first person shooters it was vying with half life.

      Not to mention these are approximately the same people that gave us system shock 2, another game that comes very highly praised. I don’t think your claims have any merit, because the gunplay isn’t shit at all and if you think the writing is shit then you must be new here. You can do a lot with the games environment although much of this involves the use of adam//vigors. I suspect you found it shit because you didn’t pay attention to any of the details that made its story so rich and dark. I also suspect you treated it like a FPS not like its own thing, which it very much is, just told in first person.

      • rabbit says:

        “I also suspect you treated it like a FPS ”

        Well — it is an FPS, so…

    • Thesingularity says:

      You seem to have appointed yourself the sole arbiter of whether a game is “good” or not. Those that disagree must obviously be deluding themselves, or mentally deficient in some way.

      It is not a bad solution. We should end all debate and get rid of reviews and Metacritic and just ask for your opinion on everything.

      • montorsi says:

        It’s tempting but don’t feed it.

        You don’t fire people for helping develop insanely popular games. Obvious troll is obvious.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Since you seem to know so much about what they should be doing, I suggest you found your own studio. Hire those affected by the closure and direct them to make a game according to your exacting specifications. I’m sure it will sell far more than all three Bioshocks combined and reap unanimous critical praise, seeing as how you clearly know the recipe for wonderful games that everyone loves.

      • eggy toast says:

        Why on earth would I hire the knuckle draggers that made the Pre-sequel?

        I honestly wouldn’t trust them to make me a sandwich without somehow making it even worse than the last sandwich I had.

        • Xocrates says:

          Here’s the thing: I do not believe you’ve played the Pre-Sequel.

          Based on everything you’ve said there’s no reason you would have short of someone pointing a gun to your head and forcing you to play it. Particularly since the game has never been so cheap that you would buy it just to try it.

          And even if you did, the game is clearly a corporate mandate to fill in time before and actual Borderlands 3 comes out. That the game does not feel like something completely phoned in is evidence enough that they WEREN’T complete “knuckle draggers”.

          You’re hating on people based on games they’ve barely been responsible for. The only game they’ve actually fronted was Pre-Sequel, which while essentially a Borderlands 2 expandalone, was a good expandalone.

    • latedave says:

      I’d claim to want to know what happened that made you such an irrational angry little man but that would mean caring.

      Borderlands are fun if not great games played on a sofa with mates which I think is where your problem lies..

    • Geebs says:

      Put the brandy down, Mother. You know how you get when you’ve had a couple, we don’t want to see you widdle in the Parson’s petunias again like last Christmas.

  2. Philopoemen says:

    Canberra is very definitely not that an exciting place to live – and a strange place to set up really, as it’s the political capital, housing is expensive (and I’m assuming office space) and the creative culture is…limited.

    Good luck to those affected. I thought with Hand of Fate, Pre-sequel and others coming out lately we were seeing a resurgence of the Aussie industry, but I guess not.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Canberra gets a lot of shit, mostly from people that haven’t lived there – its not the most exciting city by any means but its got a pretty good lifestyle. Its also got two big universities and a surprising number of museums, libraries, restaurants, theater and so on for a city of its size. And the cost of housing is in the same region as the other capital cities but with far less traffic and shorter commutes. I won’t claim its the greatest city, and if you’re after 24/7 nightlife or urban canyons better look elsewhere but I enjoyed living there and I’ve moved around a lot.

    • Ballzout says:

      Don’t underestimate Canberra.

  3. Earl-Grey says:

    But, should a game dev’s location be that much of a concern in these days of intercontinental information super-highways?

    I just realized that my dreamjob would be some sort of creative director/designer in a development studio located bang smack, square in the arse of nowhere.
    No traffic, no people, no noise.
    Just trees, the sea, the wind, around 50-60 colleagues, a nice office, games that people want to play…ahhhhhhh.
    Oh, and a cheap, high class coffeeshop around the corner! -it could be called The Oxymoron.

    Right, back to whatever The Man thinks I’m doing.

    • Xocrates says:

      It is because different locations have different living costs, operational costs, and different salaries expectations, which for a large company usually means that they can cut thousands of dollars monthly by simply moving elsewhere.

      Also, the arse of nowhere has shit internet connection. Take it from me.

      • Earl-Grey says:

        I’ll lay that fibercable myself if I have to, damn it!

      • Shuck says:

        Also, of course, if your job is in the arse end of nowhere, you have to uproot yourself and relocate there. Then, a couple years later when you lose that job, you have to relocate yourself to another, distant, spot in the arse end of nowhere for further employment. A studio in a major urban area at least allows for the possibility that you’ll find another job in the region when they lay you off.

    • Moraven says:

      All that matters to the publisher is where they can get the cheapest cost to run and biggest tax break.

    • Sam says:

      The frequency of studio closures is why there’s the seemingly wasteful geographical congregation of studios.

      Every minute 13 new start-ups start up in and around San Francisco. Their running costs could be an order of magnitude smaller if they set up in Iowa instead. But it’s hard to convince people to move across country for a job that might vanish in six months. Better to live in the overpriced Bay Area where you know there’s a good chance of finding something new when your current employer burns through their venture capital funds.

  4. thedosbox says:

    Sad to see the folks who worked on SWAT 4 (the Stetchkov Syndicate) lose their jobs.

  5. Nereus says:

    Very sad to hear this. While I have absolutely no love for 2k, given they insist on charging me between 120 and 400% more for games than my American counterparts, the teams behind Bioshock were excellent storytellers and Infinite is one of my favourite looking games ever.

    Perhaps a positive out of this is it may be the beginning of the end for 2k, they don’t have very many amazing franchises to back them anymore and it may be a matter of time before they become a division of Rockstar.

    • Mr Coot says:

      Actually, I also am not fond of the publishing arm of 2K – they are the most egregious of regional price gougers. I don’t buy their games on principle.

      2K Australia or any of the other 2K (place)’s are the devs tho’, and don’t deserve our opprobrium. (I hope, anyway. I shall be very displeased if they have been having a quiet whisper in the evil publishing section’s ear and telling them to gouge aussies). I wish them luck and hope they can find other suitable work for their creative talents. The economy’s about to head southwards here. :<

  6. Shadowcat says:

    Hard to believe that this will be the first comment about “Freedom Force” in this thread. Freedom Force was absolutely outstanding. I was so gutted that the series ended. Thanks for the good times, you Irrational Aussies!

  7. The Sombrero Kid says:

    They should do a freedom force kickstarter!

    • rabbit says:

      yes!

    • drewski says:

      Ken Levine still holds all rights to the Freedom Force IP…

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Controversial opinion time:

      Is another Freedom Force truly needed? It feels like the existing games already exhaust most of the potential of that genre. I suppose they can do a HD remake, but still…

      It feels like Saints Row 4 was a better depiction of a superhero, really. Freedom Force was really very finicky for its power fantasy premise.

      • malkav11 says:

        Saints Row 4 (and the Prototype games, and Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and a few others) certainly do a great job of providing a direct-control action-oriented superpowered fantasy experience. That’s not really anything like providing a strongly tactical superhero -team- controlling experience, much less with that lovely retro comics feel. And that’s what Freedom Force provides.

  8. drewski says:

    Very sad news for the studio, of course. Quite hard to sustain even a medium sized Australian based studio without blockbuster sales though due to the cost of living and unfortunately I don’t think any of the games 2K Oz worked on really made the kind of return 2K would have needed.

  9. Muzman says:

    I still want to see that original XCOM of theirs. That sounded like one of the most interesting big titles in forever.
    That tale of its desecration also reads like the tale of a Looking Glass style of development meeting the corporate cookie cutter as well (and losing, inevitably).

    They’re not solely to blame, but the old X-Com fans didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory over this. Like it or not, Spoony and everyone else howling “BETRAYAAAAAAAAL!” at every look at the thing and the way it was taken away from the departed here is an embarrassment to creativity and innovation in games.

  10. frogulox says:

    Noone understands our nicknaming conventions.
    shane proudman, james wallace, james davison, benjamin tomosewski and iain videogames turn up they call each other shano, wally peanut, tommo and ian.

    Noone likes ian