After years of speculation, leaks, and rumors, 2K Games has confirmed it is working on BioShock 4. The company revealed Monday that it plans to put together a new studio, Cloud Chamber, to lead the development of the next chapter for the sci-fi series. But don’t expect to be playing the newest game in the series any time soon.
In a press release, 2K said the next installment of the series was still “several years” away, even though Kotaku reported that BioShock 4 entered development in 2015 under a third-party studio. The company has reportedly scrapped the early version of the game and will now entrust the IP to the newly formed Cloud Chamber.
The announcement has met with a mixed reception among gamers. “While I’m a big fan of the BioShock series, I really wish they wouldn’t revisit it,” wrote Kinja user drgnrbrn316. “Nothing good will come of it. The originals were masterful single-player experiences, with multiplayer being at best an afterthought. In today’s video game landscape, everything is an always online live service, with little attention given to the single player experience.”
While little is known about how Cloud Chamber will approach BioShock 4, but there’s evidence to suggest it will take a live-service approach. At the end of November, 2K posted a now-deleted job listing for an End Game Design Lead, based in Novato, California. It didn’t mention any specific titles, but it explicitly stated that the game will be heavily focused on “live-services.” We also know Cloud Chamber will be partially housed in Novato.
That suggests that BioShock 4 could end up looking a lot like Fallout 76, Diablo 3, or Borderlands 3, much like drgnrbrn316 suggested. It might forgo its focus on a single-player narrative in favor of a multiplayer-first strategy with reoccurring DLC content drops to keep players hooked after they reach the story’s end.
2K’s announcement also didn’t mention the return of anyone involved with the original trilogy. Several fans voiced concern that Ken Levine, who led the creation of the entire series, and Jordan Thomas, a leading designer and director behind the first three games, weren’t mentioned in the release.
“I worry that 2k will run BioShock’s name into the ground,” wrote Redditor /u/rudboy1. “Ken Levine was such a huge part of the overall vision the first games. I feel they need someone similar…But I am still excited and hyped. Just hope they don’t Assassins Creed BioShock.”
A change of creative vision doesn’t necessarily mean that BioShock 4 will be dead on arrival, but it suggests that Cloud Chamber could opt for a completely different outlook for the beloved sci-fi series. The first three games set a high bar for their unique approach to storytelling. PlayStation Official Magazine wrote that BioShock Infinite deserves a spot next to legendary titles like Half-Life and Deus Ex as “the apotheosis of the narrative-driven shooter.”
Adding live-service aspects, like microtransactions for in-game weapons or contentious “loot boxes” could water down the franchise’s legacy as a story-driven powerhouse, similarly to what happened with Bethesda’s release of Fallout 76.
It’s still too early to say if BioShock 4 will take a game-as-a-service approach like Fallout 76, one of the worst flops in recent memory. It’s possible 2K could find a way to make these services work well within BioShock, but at first glance an enthralling story and live-service features seem to be at odds with each other.
BioShock 4 has yet to receive an official title, but is currently under development.