Home Gaming “The AAA, single-player narrative game is starting to disappear” says Ken Levine

“The AAA, single-player narrative game is starting to disappear” says Ken Levine

2 min read


As you may or may not know, Ken Levine, one of the key the creative forces behind BioShock and co-founder of Irrational games sorta closed that studio, to create smaller, narrative focused games as an independent developer.

While he’s not ready to talk much about his new game just yet, he has shared that it’ll be a smaller-scale open world game – something that does away with the linearity that was a hallmark of BioShock. Why? Because gamers aren’t that keen to spend money on shorter games.

“The AAA, single-player narrative game is starting to disappear. Kind of games like BioShock. There’s fewer of them being made,” said Levine talking to NPR’s On Point (via Gamespot).

“The real reason is they’re very expensive to make and I think gamers are saying pretty loud and clear that if they’re going to spend $40, $50, $60, they want an experience that lasts more than 10-12 hours. That’s a lot to ask somebody to spend.”

Gamers, he says, want games that are a tad more open-ended, allowing for multiple playthroughs and different ways of approaching the same situations.

“We started this experiment after we finished BioShock Infinite,” Levine continued, “which was, ‘How do you make a narrative game feel like the kind of games we’ve made before but make it replayable and make it extend and make it react to the players?’

“[You] make it replayable by giving players different ways to approach the problems and really letting them dictate the experience. That is not a simple problem to solve.”

“And the reason ours is an open world game is because if you want to give the player the agency to drive the experience, that really fights against the linear nature of the games we made before like BioShock and BioShock Infinite. What it really means though is, ‘How do you make your content so it feels like the quality of the content you’ve made in games before but reacts to the players’ agency and then allows the player to do something in one playthrough and something very different in another playthrough?'”

I don’t know how I feel about this. I’ve largely grown tired of open-world games, and would love to see the return of the AAA linear narrative game – but I have to agree with Levine in that most consumers just don’t see them as great value propositions.

Last Updated: December 18, 2015


  1. Original Heretic

    December 18, 2015 at 15:46

    Must admit, when I’m buying a game these days, I look for something that’s going to keep me busy for many many hours. Hence my love for RPG’s . It’s not that they’re necessarily open world, it’s that they’re long and intricate.
    I just feel cheated when I buy a newly released game only to finish it in 10 hours.
    Though that being said, if the narrative is strong, it does make it more worthwhile. Games like Alan Wake and The Last of Us. Not overly long games, but the story grips you from the opening sequence and just doesn’t let go.


    • SentientSlug

      December 18, 2015 at 18:35

      10 hours is too short, 15 hours is ok, ideal for me is 20 to 30 hours, if the story is strong.


  2. Jonah Cash

    December 18, 2015 at 15:46

    I am now crying!!! This is the first article I have read all day and it spells the end of my hobbie for me. I am not playing open world crap after open world crap. Will stick to Fifa and titanfall for my gaming fix for now! (And yes I play both online but I don’t expect a story line out of them so I am never disappointed.)


  3. Hammersteyn

    December 18, 2015 at 15:58

    $60 is a lot of green. Even for those living in Yankeestan. I think he forgets the AAA norm. Now most games have DLC or content they cut out to be sold later. How anyone can still think it’s not a money making scheme is beyond me. So his $60 is actually $90 or more and I’d like to think that’s why gamers aren’t keen to spend money on short games.


    • MakeItLegal

      December 21, 2015 at 11:10



  4. Kromas untamed

    December 18, 2015 at 16:54

    Shitty stories are not going to fly anymore. Tomb Raider,Wolfenstein and The last of Us showed us that these games are not going anywhere.

    He is just following the trend where game devs declare things to be “That way”

    Take it with a grain of salt.


    • SentientSlug

      December 18, 2015 at 18:36

      I hope you are right, I tend to agree!!!


  5. ZA Ludomusicologist

    December 18, 2015 at 17:54



  6. SentientSlug

    December 18, 2015 at 18:34

    Well thats sad, because people would rather pay for mindless grinding than a tight knit narrative experience. Even the Witcher began to get boring for me, side quest after side quest. And whoever said that game had no fetch quest was a moron. But I don’t think that Levine is the oracle on this matter so don’t panic. Id rather play a short focused game with purposeful content than a 100 hour open world game with fetch quests for days.


  7. oVg

    December 21, 2015 at 08:45

    Does he mean linear single player narrative? Because 2015 had over 8 single player games at the game awards. The single player game has never been more popular.

    I dont care if its open world or linear. They both even themselves out from the short crazy set pieces of linear to long explorative sand box of open world.

    The Witcher 3 had over 50hours of voice recording. THATS 50 HOURS people. THATS MORE THAN 5 SEASONS OF GAME OF THRONES.

    I bet Ken Levine has placed all his bets on the on-line multiplayer experience. Of course he is going to promote it.


  8. CypherGate

    December 21, 2015 at 09:30

    Nothing beats a good story and good playability. Open world games are fun, but can become very daunting. I mean you play the game for the main quest really and get side tracked most of the game through from the side quests. Now I enjoy side quests as well, but sometimes there is so much that forget about the main quest which in turn feels grindy or more like a chore.


  9. Sageville

    December 21, 2015 at 10:23

    I have open world games for days, still to complete.

    I want something different, I find myself playing indies more these days, spent the weekend playing Rocket League and Don’t Starve… I don’t even feel bad, I’m looking for more games like this.


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