Promises that were taken away
Today we are going to be exploring the struggles of 2K Australia, which is covered in Jason Schreier’s new book Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry.
In 2000, Irrational Games Australia was established as a subsidiary of the American-based Irrational Games. Six years later, Take Two Interactive purchased Irrational Games, including Irrational Games Australia, with the latter rebranded as 2K Australia.
As early as 2005, the Australian studio was developing an XCOM-based sci-fi shooter game. However once the Take Two acquisition happened, the newly christened 2K Australia was assigned to assist development of BioShock. Schreier reports that game director Ken Levine was apparently notorious for changing his mind on short notice, making BioShock’s development highly demanding.
Despite BioShock’s rocky development, the game was an overwhelming success critically and commercially. However it was noted for creating a negative ripple effect on 2K Australia as the head office intensified demand for sequels.
Instead of continuing work on their sci-fi shooter, 2K Australia was forced to work on Borderlands 2. Once again, the Australian studio encountered difficulties in development, this time they were forced to assist 2K Marin (after Levine declined to do the sequel) and experienced a tumultuous working relationship with the lead developer.
After, 2K Australia re-partnered with Irrational Games to continue work on the sci-fi XCOM shooter, which was short-lived. Ken Levine had decided to return to the BioShock series, with Infinite. Irrational Games was assigned to be developer for Infinite with 2K Australia providing assistance.
To add further insult to injury, 2K Marin was tasked to a new XCOM project with its press statement insinuating that Australian staff would be involved. Soon, most Australian staff were laid off, and the ones who remained worked on the aforementioned BioShock: Infinite. The XCOM game that would get released in 2013 became The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and suffered a middling public reception, before 2K Marin would get shut down without public acknowledgment.
A silver lining for 2K Australia occurred during Borderlands 2 development, with the studio being promised a project they could lead. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was that project, which earned a more glowing reception than what 2K Marin experienced.
However it was not enough to save the studio and 2K Australia folded in 2015.