Ken Levine Wants a Better Deal From Take-Two

Ken Levine Wants a Better Deal From Take-Two


Ken Levine is renegotiating his contract with Take-Two Interactive, seeking a bigger slice of the very lucrative BioShock pie.

The Cut Scene blog at is carrying a report saying the renegotiations have been ongoing for the past couple of months and show no sign of ending soon. Levine apparently feels that as one of the few widely-recognized and respected "faces" of the videogame industry, he is entitled to greater levels of both creative freedom and financial compensation for his efforts.

ake-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick and CEO Ben Feder have both been directly involved with the negotiations, while Levine is represented by the Creative Artists Agency, a high-profile agency whose client list includes Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, Hugh Laurie and Sidney Crosby.

The ongoing negotiations are reported to be the reason for Levine's relative absence from discussions about both BioShock 2 as well as the BioShock movie. BioShock was developed by 2K Boston and 2K Australia, but Take-Two established a new studio based in Marin county to handle the development of BioShock 2 following rumors of dissatisfaction with Levine among a "good chunk" of the original development team. The company said Levine "will be involved" with the development of BioShock 2, although no details have been released regarding the nature of his role; he is also rumored to be working on a revival of the old X-Com tactical combat series.


Good to know Ken "Make the plot as dumb as possible" Levine is demanding more creative freedom and money. Maybe in his next game he'll bother to write a fourth and fifth act.


For the record, I think his writing in previous games has been excellent. I just thought Bioshock was his weakest and it's kind of irritating that it gets paraded around so much while stuff like Thief or Sys-, you get the idea.

In theory, I'm in favor of such a proportional monetary consideration, but I'm not so sure about the quality of Levine's stuff.

Those rumors of dissatisfaction are completely untrue. I sit a few desks down from Ken at work, and all of the original creative members of the Bioshock (and other previous Irrational games) are still at the office.

-John Abercrombie

Seems full of himself eh? But as long this magically turns into a cool game i'm happy.

I'm all for creative freedom and paying well, but I have two concerns about this: One, as Tecmo pointed out with regards to Team Ninja, it's great to have a recognized figurehead but game development is a team effort. What's the reality about Ken's contribution to the overall creation process of a game like BioShock? I'm not suggesting he's taking more credit than he should, just that a lot of folks worked on the game in varying capacities and I'm not sure how Ken's role is to be valued in comparison to someone like, say, the lead artist. And two, I have to admit concerns about how this could affect the cost of game development in the long run. Are we going to see escalating contracts between big-name developers, with guys like Warren Spector refusing to develop a new game under the terms of his current contract because Peter Molyneux just signed a deal that earned him a 20 percent raise, and Spector wants the same "respect?" It's a bit far-fetched at this point, maybe, but money has a way of making some people kinda crazy.

Which says nothing about the fact that having a recognized name at the head of your latest title doesn't guarantee a thing about its overall quality or success. (See American McGee's Anything He's Ever Done for an example.)

And thanks for the clarification regarding the 2K Boston rumors, John. It's good to hear Ken's not as big a dick as he's sometimes made out to be. :)

Is Ken squinting or do his eyelids naturally sew shut?

Is Ken squinting or do his eyelids naturally sew shut?

Fox Mulder has the same problem I think.


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