It feels like it's been a really long time since BioShock Infinite, the third instalment in 2K Games critically acclaimed BioShock series, but in fact it's only been two and a half years. Not a huge amount of time in the world of game development.
Last year Irrational Games, the developer behind the BioShock series, shut down as Creative Director Ken Levine and a handful of Irrational employees moved on to a smaller studio focusing on narrative-driven, digital only games. This left the BioShock intellectual property rights in the hands of 2K Games, the developer which purchased Irrational back in 2006.
Irrational Games' final hurrah came in the form of BioShock Infinite’s two-part DLC Burial At Sea, which ended Elizabeth's story and definitively tied together the narratives of BioShock and BioShock Infinite, though not without breaking our collective hearts in the process.
We Are Getting Another BioShock, Right?
Back in May a lot of folk got pretty excited when 2K started teasing a new game that looked like it could be BioShock 4, only for their collective hopes to be dashed when it was revealed in fact to be the upcoming XCOM 2 (which does look pretty neat but hey, it's no BioShock).
But it's not all bad! The CEO of 2K's parent company Take-Two Interactive Strauss Zelnick said back in May that BioShock remains an important franchise to the company, as well it should.
"It's a really important intellectual property for the company. And while I don't have any announcements to make, yes, it's a really important franchise for us."
Okay, not much news on that front then. But at least we know they haven't given up on the series entirely. It was Zelnick who made the comments regarding the future of BioShock following the closure of Irrational Games, seemingly positive about the potential growth remaining in the series:
"I think there's a lot of upside in that franchise. It hasn't necessarily been realised yet. And the question for the future, assuming we decide to answer the question, would be 'How do you stay true to that creatively?'; 'How do you do something exciting?'; and 'How do you do expand the market?'. That would be the natural drill. We're starting from a good point on it. And certainly it's been a great piece of business for us; it's been a profitable piece of business."
Ah, there is it, the profitable business hook. We'll get to that.
To be fair to the developers, it's not like Irrational are the only ones capable of making a good BioShock game. BioShock 2 was developed by 2K Marin and 2K Australia and, whilst it is the lowest rated of the three (though only by a marginal amount), it was still a hell of a lot of fun and an all-round wonderfully crafted game.
2K Marin have been put in charge of the future of the BioShock franchise by 2K, so if they've done it before there's no reason why they can't do it again.
But Should They?
Don't get me wrong, I adore the BioShock series, but one has to wonder if there's much point carrying on from here on out.
Burial at Sea's ending wasn't exactly a happy one, but when have any of the BioShock games ever really had an ending that didn't make us die a little inside? The player-character sacrificing their life at the conclusion of each game seems to be a pretty prevalent theme by this point. This should make it a little more difficult to tie together all the different games without an overarching main character but they've done really well so far, particularly in how Burial at Sea tied together Rapture and Columbia.
Each instalment in the three-piece franchise has received critical acclaim, but none so much as BioShock Infinite. Of course there's no such thing as a perfect game (or if there is I'm saving that title for Fallout 4 when it releases next month), but the BioShock series has come pretty close. By keeping it contained they've been able to put out three major success stories, each game ranking in the mid 90% across major review sites, and the franchise as a whole wraps up very neatly where we find it now.
Zelnick's comments about BioShock being a "profitable piece of business" could be worrying. So many developers recently are more concerned with quantity over quality and it would be a shame to see BioShock going down the path of Assassin's Creed and destroying itself in the process.
It's the same fear now being faced by Star Wars fans - the success of the next instalment of a classic series could take away some of the kudos from it's predecessor if it doesn't play as well with the mythology. So whilst we may be getting a BioShock 4, should we really? Or should we leave a great trilogy as is? Or should we put stock in the rumours that we're getting a BioShock collection for next-gen consoles? (Yes please).
Aah lets be honest though, I'd play BioShock 4. I'd play that game so hard.