BioShock Sells 25 Million Copies, Still Wasn’t Enough To Save Irrational

BioShock Sells 25 Million Copies, Still Wasn’t Enough To Save Irrational

As we’ve seen in the last few years, being behind a popular franchise or pumping out successful games is not always enough to save a studio from the chopping block. Take Irrational Games and BioShock, which pushed 25 million copies. That’s apparently mediocre, if the fate of Irrational is anything to go by.

I reckon it’s a smashing number, especially when you consider the latest title, Infinite, is responsible for 11 of the 25 million, according to Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick. The numbers come from a talk Zelnick gave at New York’s Technology, Media, & Telecom Conference, which GameSpot listened in on.

As the site’s news editor Eddie Makuch writes, BioShock remains a “really important intellectual property”, though Zelnick didn’t have much to say regarding the franchise’s future, other than that it has “a lot of upside” and has proven to be “a profitable piece of business”.

2K Marin will be at the reigns, whatever the direction the publisher takes, though the lukewarm reception to the studio’s The Bureau: XCOM Declassified does not instil one with confidence.

BioShock Franchise Still “Really Important,” Publisher Says [GameSpot]


  • its because of the amount of money that gets blown on marketing, a game may be made costing only 50million, but then another 50+ is spent just on marketing. its fucking stupid. remember when square was upset that tombraider 5million copies, and yet they called it a failure…

    • It’s more because the profits from the game sales go to the publisher, not the developer. The developer is paid by the publisher to make the game, the publisher then aims to get that money back and made a tidy profit when the game goes on sale.

      How successful the game is really doesn’t have much bearing on the fate of the developer. I guess if you make a good selling game, you have more of a chance of being signed by the publisher to make another one, but it’s no guarantee.

      • while thats true, in the case of the tomb raider reboot, it sold 5million but because it didnt sell 8 square ( the publisher) considering it a failure. too much money is wasted on advertisiting and you just have to look at destiny vs dark souls. One with a budget of half a billion dollars and considered mediorce, the other made for far far less and considered a masterpiece.

        Publishers pay out the arse for stuff that isnt needed, and then because they dont have the funds or the game doesnt meet their sales expectations, they then take it out on the developer

        • While marketing costs are ridiculous, I wouldn’t say that it’s not needed. The only way a company is going to make up the (also ridiculous) costs that game development now incurs is through getting noticed by the non-hardcore crowd and getting enough hype to get people to shell out $50-100 on them instead of the competition. Maybe not $200 mill. ridiculous, but you have to pay for TV, internet, newspaper, magazine advertisements around the world and they’re expensive.

          • yeah it is needed to an extent but it should never even approch the cost of development let alone cost more than the amount to develop. then you add in all the wasted money spend of website ads when quite a large number of customers are using an adblocker or sub scription serve as to not bother with ads.

  • There is so much more that contributes to the success or failure of a business, it doesn’t matter how much product is sold if there are serious issues behind the scenes, over spending on marketing, as thyco pointed out, just as much, if not more goes into marketing the game then into its production. The same happens with movies now.

    I remember when I was younger, the only way you knew of new games was gaming magazines, and if you were lucky an ad on tv. Now ads are on billboards, all over webpages, buses, then you have the trade shows and conventions that are supported by them to get more advertising out.

    People wonder why games now get paid DLC after release, it’s because they have to try to make back money they lost from advertising, DLC doesn’t require as much advertising as the initial game so they will make more on that and hopefully stay in business to continue making games we love.

    Hopefully BioShocks future isn’t dead, I would like to see another entry. Perhaps on a moon colony, similar to Rapture but with a very 50s idea of what the future on the moon would look like.

      • Expansion packs used to be content that was created by the developer after completing the original, often encompassing the inclusion of new levels, weapon/units, and just about any other content that the creator could package in to it.

        Most DLC these days is thought out ahead of time to nickle and dime customers in a way that is designed to increase the amount the customer pays beyond the initial $60-100 investment. To paraphrase Jim Sterling: “They aren’t content with just some of the money, they wan’t all of the money.”

        • I agree there is a lot of greed out there in DLC.

          They sell the special feeling of being a Unique Snowflake with a unique or exclusive cosmetic item. Until you load in and every body has one.

        • Enh. From a project-management perspective, I see the benefit to DLC, and that part doesn’t have anything to do with raking it in from customers.

          Thing is, certification takes months. You got a bunch of the creatives – artists, level designers, writers – sitting on their asses while QA and programming are butting heads over bugs to get the final certification build in in time to go gold by the marketing-set release date. Heads will roll if the launch date has to move, so that’s a thing that is done. Not a lot of content-generation happens in that stage.

          So. You can either lay off all your content-generation staff, pay them to twiddle their thumbs, put them to work on the next project (except that their part of the next project isn’t ready yet, it’s still in Design phase, so they would twiddle their thumbs anyway) OR, put them to work on some DLC which has the benefit of a much more streamlined certification process. The difference is such that the main product you finished working on six months ago will only be available for sale at around about the same time as the DLC you finished working on last month.

          It’s about the efficient use of resources, and I can appreciate that.
          (It doesn’t excuse the sometimes exhorbitant pricing, or the retailer-specific preorder content, which should correctly be attributed to publisher marketing douchebaggery.)

  • Logan, seriously? Irrational shut last year because Ken Levine intentionally closed it down and took a core team to a new small-scale studio under Take Two. It had nothing to do with the publisher and nothing to do with how well the Bioshock franchise sold.

    • Don’t let that get in the way of good journalism, it’s the US Kotaku way

      • Or that Bioshock was crap and should never be billed as “spiritual successor” of System Shock… Floaty gunplay… Blergh.

        Looked pretty though for the first 15 minutes.

        • Wow 11million thats like half of australia buying the game… or 5 newzealands.

  • This is probably the best possible evidence of how snarfed-up, ass-backwards and crazy the current state of the gaming industry is…

  • Irrational never went broke. Ken Levine shut it down. Bioshock sells were amazing. Irrational was great. It had nothing to do with money.

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