2K Marin has recently undergone major layoffs as reported by multiple sources such as Polygon, IGN and GameSpot. The developer behind Bioshock on PS3, Bioshock 2, and most recently, XCOM Declassified, is now reportedly not the same studio it once was. Is this the fault of it’s own or of outside causes that led to it’s downfall.
As someone who enjoyed Bioshock 2 much more than the original Bioshock, I am a bit saddened by hearing of 2K Marin’s hurt. Quick history lesson: The developer 2K Marin started out as a spin off of Irrational Games post-Bioshock. Irrational was then known as 2K Boston, and was also helped by a third development studio, 2K Australia, which was later absorbed into 2K Marin, only to be split again in late 2011. [Plunkett]
As Irrational set out to start their next big project which would eventually become Bioshock Infinite, 2K Marin was left to port the then Xbox 360 console exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Bioshock was released in 2007, a year after the PS3’s release when many developers were still struggling to adapt to it’s architecture and achieve graphical parity between the PS3 and Xbox 360. 2K Marin was left to port the critically and financially successful game to this complicated piece of hardware, complete with a new difficulty, Survivor Mode, and a promise of challenge rooms in the future. Bioshock on PS3 sold well, putting out over a million copies. After this 2K Marin joined 2K Australia in order to create the sequel that would become Bioshock 2.
While Bioshock 2 was criticized for returning to the city of Rapture instead of exploring a new idea or location. Despite this criticism Bioshock 2, in my opinion, had a much better story and gameplay than the original, which elevates it to a higher position. However critics didn’t feel the same way and despite it’s high scores was considered the weakest of the Bioshock series at it’s release, and still holds that position after the release of Bioshock Infinite. After Bioshock 2’s release it shipped 3 million copies and sold about 2 million copies, a large success. [Reilly]
XCOM had a sordid history before it’s mediocre release with the subtitle “Declassified”. The rights to the XCOM name were bought by 2K in 2005. Irrational was bought out by 2K in 2006 and the developer, as well as 2K Australia, went on to pitch several concepts, though most of its focus was on Bioshock. Irrational eventually dumped the XCOM concepts onto 2K Australia, which after it was absorbed into 2K Marin, brought the responsibility of making an XCOM based game with it. It was at E3 2010 that XCOM was shown as a first person shooter to gaming press. Afterwards it underwent difficulties in development. Key figures within left the company, and they scrapped multiplayer aspect. They found it hard to implement stealth and the essence of XCOM into the gameplay and eventually 2K Australia separated to help Irrational with Infinite [Pitcher], dumping the XCOM game on 2K Marin. It underwent a major revamp in 2011 and became more tactical and switched to a third person perspective. All media related to the XCOM title was erased from existence in 2012 and slowly replaced by The Bureau and other mysterious titles. Eventually it was finally re-revealed as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified in early 2013 and released a few months later in August.
Declassified was not that well received, getting okay scores from various outlets and currently holds a 66% on Metacritic. In contrast a year earlier XCOM Enemy Unknown, a remake of the original PC game was released on consoles as well as PC and was a hit critically and commercially, selling enough to warrant praise from Take-Two chief executive officer Strauss Zelnick. 2K Marin is more a victim of circumstance than a bad developer. Having been dumped with developing a port, a sequel to a game they didn’t originally create and people didn’t really want, and then receiving the responsibility of an IP that was more concept than game from a partner developer that left them to work on a more successful game. And now here we have 2K Marin probably being shut down and scrapped. This is depressing mostly because the one game they created on their own, Bioshock 2, was such an improvement over the first Bioshock. It’s story revolving around finding your daughter and the dual wielding plasmid/weapon nature of the gameplay was much more fun to play than the silent protagonist/anti-climactic ending original. The real tragedy is that 2K Marin is most likely mainly being shut down for it’s failure to produce a XCOM game that sold well, with “Creutz [saying] 2K Marin’s game is “unlikely to generate any significant sales.” This will be fewer than 250,000 units in the United States through the end of the calendar year, he said.” [Makuch]
Sad to see a studio of talented people being laid off, hopefully all of them can move on to new studios and pursue their own ambitions instead of being tasked with following up on other’s successes and concepts.
Makuch, Eddie, July 29, 2013, GameSpot, http://www.gamespot.com/articles/analyst-the-bureau-xcom-declassified-will-come-up-short/1100-6412158/
Pitcher, Jenna, Feb 12, 2013, Polygon, http://www.polygon.com/2013/2/12/3979724/2k-australias-role-in-bioshock-infinite-development
Plunkett, Luke, April 16, 2010, Kotaku, http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/04/2k-studio-name-madness-continues-with-new-xcom-game/
Reilly, Jim, March 3, 2010, IGN, http://www.ign.com/articles/2010/03/03/bioshock-2-ships-3-million-gta-iv-sales-top-15-million