Gamasutra contributor Leigh Alexander has revealed an insider source from Irrational Games told her that there was trouble brewing in Irrational since 2011. Take-Two Interactive already intended to close the studio back then if the game did not reach exceedingly high sales expectations.
Leigh’s article delves a bit more into her issues with conflict of interest, knowing many people in Irrational, but she reveals many more details about Irrational’s mindset when they were in the middle of making Bioshock Infinite.
Her sources corroborate earlier stories that Ken was difficult to work with, in the sense that his aspirations and changing ideas for the game meant highly extended development periods. Apparently, most of the people who made the original Bioshock had already left, and the employees themselves also saw that the studio might close if the game did not sell all that well.
Take Two has not publicly revealed expectations on game sales, but the game sold 3.7 million units in the middle of 2013. This is across three platforms, for a game that took five years to make.
As Leigh concludes, it may be possible that Levine did not close his studio on a whim so much as he negotiated the best exit for Irrational, the company he cofounded 17 years ago, with Take Two Interactive as best he can.
We wish Ken and the other employees at Irrational the best of luck in their future endeavors.