Irrational Games

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Irrational Games
  • Irrational Games
  • (1997–2007, 2009–2017)
  • 2K Boston
  • (2007–2009)
IndustryVideo games
Founded1997; 26 years ago (1997)
DefunctFebruary 23, 2017; 6 years ago (2017-02-23)
SuccessorGhost Story Games
Key people
Ken Levine (creative director)
Number of employees
15 (2014)
Parent2K (2006–2017)

Irrational Games (known as 2K Boston between 2007 and 2009) was an American video game developer founded in 1997 by three former employees of Looking Glass Studios: Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey, and Robert Fermier. Take-Two Interactive acquired the studio in 2006. The studio was known for its games System Shock 2, Freedom Force, SWAT 4, and most notably, two of the games in the BioShock series. In 2014, following the release of BioShock Infinite, Levine opted to significantly restructure the studio from around 90 to 15 employees and focus more on narrative games. In February 2017, the studio announced that it had been rebranded as Ghost Story Games and considered a fresh start from the original Irrational name, though still operating at the same business subsidiary under Take-Two.


  • 1997 – Irrational Games studio formed by former Looking Glass Studios employees Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey, and Robert Fermier.[1]
  • 1999 – System Shock 2, co-developed with Looking Glass Studios, released to critical acclaim.
  • 2000 – "Irrational Games Australia" studio is opened in Canberra, with Jonathan Chey taking the helm. Deep Cover is cancelled.
  • 2002 – Legal issues with publisher Crave Entertainment result in the development of The Lost being halted.
  • 2004 – Irrational designers Ed Orman and Dean Tate awarded "Best Design" in the Australian Game Developer Awards, as well as the studio receiving "Best Game of 2004" and "Best PC Game" for the game Tribes Vengeance.[2]
  • 2005 – Irrational's Boston studio moves to larger office space in Quincy, Massachusetts. The studio retains the "Irrational Games Boston" title.
  • 2006 – Irrational is acquired by Take-Two Interactive, under the 2K publishing arm.[3]
  • 2007 – Irrational Games is renamed to 2K Boston and 2K Australia on August 10.[4] BioShock released August 21 to wide critical acclaim and strong sales.
  • 2010 – 2K Boston announces its return to its original name, "Irrational Games" on January 8.[5]
  • 2013 - Irrational Games releases BioShock Infinite on 26 March to critical acclaim, selling 11 million copies as of May 2015.

Shortly after BioShock was released, rumors arose that many of the staff who had worked on the game were leaving 2K Boston/Australia. In 2007, five members of the 2K Boston team moved to a new 2K studio in Novato, California.[6] Soon after, 2K announced the formation of 2K Marin in Novato.[7]

In late July 2010, several media outlets reported that a recently created website,, was a promotion relating to Irrational Games' unannounced project. The following week, information about the game was again teased, with the trailer confirmed for release on August 12, 2010.[8] This was eventually revealed to be BioShock Infinite.

Before Irrational started development on BioShock Infinite, the studio did preliminary work for the XCOM project that later became The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.[9]

Restructuring and rebranding[edit]

Development on BioShock Infinite, what would be Irrational's last game, started in 2008, about half a year after completion of the original BioShock. Following the game's public announcement in 2010, the company was pressured by 2K Games and the gaming consumers to make sure the title lived up to the expectations that the promotional material had set for it. Irrational hired more staff and allocated work to additional studios to help with the game, but this only served to complicate matters; from post-mortem interviews with Irrational staff, Levine was continually changing some of the core story beats for the game, which would dramatically change game assets that had already developed. Levine also admitted to difficulties in managing the larger staff. Conflicts over development leadership led to the departure of some high-level individuals in 2012. To bring the game back onto schedule for release, 2K hired industry professionals to assist Levine in managing the large team and focusing the game's content including eliminating planned multiplayer modes. BioShock Infinite was released by March 2013.[10]

On February 18, 2014, Levine announced that the vast majority of the Irrational Games studio staff would be laid off, with all but fifteen members of the staff losing their positions. Levine said that he wanted to start "a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two," speaking to how much stress completing a large game like BioShock: Infinite had caused him.[11] Levine said, "I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience."[11] Levine had considered starting a new development studio for this, knowing that building the ideas would take several years before any game product would be made. Still, Take-Two offered to let him keep the division within Take-Two, with Levine saying that they told him, "there was no better place to pursue this new chapter than within their walls."[11] The studio helped to find positions for the displaced employees, and 2K hosted a career day for the remaining 75 employees to help seek employment at 57 other studios.[11][12]

Levine and the 15 remaining members of the team began the process of creating new, smaller games focusing on a replayable narrative for the core gamers. It was said that Levine's studio would continue to keep the Irrational name, although Take-Two later stated that it was not true.[13] From 2014 to 2015, Irrational Games continued to post several openings for jobs at the studio.[14][15][16] In January 2015, Levine and the remaining staff are currently developing their first game, which will be a "first-person sci-fi" game.[17]

On February 22, 2017,[18] the studio announced it had rebranded itself as Ghost Story Games, founded by 12 of the former Irrational members with Levine continuing as president and creative director.[19] The studio's focus is "to create immersive, story-driven games for people who love games that ask something of them";[19] the name was chosen as ghost stories "are immersive, exciting, and steeped in community," similar to the studio's design philosophies.[20] As of this point, the studio had about 25 employees.[21]

Games developed[edit]

As Irrational Games[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher Notes
1999 System Shock 2 Microsoft Windows Electronic Arts Co-developed with Looking Glass Studios
2002 Freedom Force Microsoft Windows Crave Entertainment
2004 Tribes: Vengeance Microsoft Windows Sierra Entertainment Assisted Irrational Games Canberra
2005 Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich Microsoft Windows Vivendi Universal Games
SWAT 4 Microsoft Windows Sierra Entertainment
2006 SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate Microsoft Windows
2013 BioShock Infinite Microsoft Windows 2K Games
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode One Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
2014 BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode Two Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360

As 2K Boston[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher
2007 BioShock Microsoft Windows 2K Games
Xbox 360
2008 PlayStation 3

Cancelled video games[edit]


  1. ^ Keefer, John (March 31, 2006). "GameSpy Retro: Developer Origins, Page 5 of 19". GameSpy. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007.
  2. ^ "The Australian Game Developers Conference". Archived from the original on March 9, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  3. ^ Jenkins, David (January 9, 2006). "Take-Two Acquires Irrational Games". Gamasutra. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  4. ^ "Irrational Games Renamed 2K Boston and 2K Australia". Business Wire. August 10, 2007. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
  5. ^ "The Return Of Irrational Games". Game Informer. Archived from the original on January 11, 2010. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  6. ^ "Q&A: Ken Levine talks BioShock, reminisces about X-Com". GameSpot. March 20, 2009. Archived from the original on June 28, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2009.
  7. ^ "Take-Two confirms 2K Marin". GameSpot. December 17, 2007. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2009.
  8. ^ Totilo, Stephen. "BioShock Creators' Next Game Debuts Next Week, Trailer On Aug. 12". Kotaku. Archived from the original on August 5, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  9. ^ Plante, Chris (March 6, 2014). "The final years of Irrational Games, according to those who were there". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on March 6, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  10. ^ Schreier, Jason (May 10, 2021). "A look inside BioShock Infinite's troubled development". Polygon. Retrieved May 10, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d Makuch, Eddie (February 18, 2014). "BioShock creator Irrational Games is shutting down". GameSpot. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  12. ^ "Irrational Games closure led to 75 layoffs, job fair hosted 57 studios". Polygon. February 28, 2014. Archived from the original on April 15, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  13. ^ Morris, Chris (May 14, 2014). "Take-Two CEO open to buying more studios". Archived from the original on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  14. ^ Gera, Emily (November 24, 2014). "BioShock developer Irrational Games is hiring again". Polygon. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  15. ^ Tach, Dave (May 6, 2015). "BioShock creator Irrational Games continues to hire for its mystery project". Polygon. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Frank, Allegra (December 11, 2015). "Irrational Games hiring for 'narrative first-person shooter' project". Polygon. Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  17. ^ Phillips, Tom (January 28, 2015). "BioShock creator Ken Levine teases new first-person sci-fi project". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on May 28, 2015. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
  18. ^ Shafiee, Jason (February 22, 2017). "Welcome to Ghost Story". Ghost Story Games.
  19. ^ a b Pereira, Chris (February 23, 2017). "Former BioShock Studio Irrational Games Adopts A New Name". GameSpot. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  20. ^ Hall, Charlie (February 23, 2017). "Irrational is now called Ghost Story Games". Polygon. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  21. ^ Chalk, Andy (February 23, 2017). "Irrational Games is gone—say hello to Ghost Story". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.

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