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BioShock rescued shooters, says Levine

"These games had never made any money."

2K's Ken Levine has told Eurogamer he reckons BioShock has rescued the shooter genre by opening up a brand new market.

"I can pretty much guarantee to you that if BioShock wasn't successful, there never would have been another game like this," Levine told us in an exclusive interview. "I don't even know how we convinced people to pay for BioShock. These games had never made any money - everybody told us when we were pitching BioShock, sounds like a great idea, you'll sell 150,000 units - next!"

Levine was responding to a question about the player response to BioShock - in particular, the criticism from some players that the game was less complex or challenging than they'd hoped. He doesn't agree with that assertion, and thinks hardcore fans of the genre should focus on the positives.

"Honestly, really deep down, we wanted to popularise this kind of gameplay that we've been attached to for so long," he explained. "If the first iteration of it was a tiny bit simpler than System Shock 2... Look, how many of these type of games do you think are going to be made now, compared to how many were going to be made before? It took us how many years to get this game green-lit?

"Now, future games, competitors' games, our games... We can build upon millions of people's knowledge of the genre. How many people had played these kind of games before? 300,000, 400,000 - maybe? Now millions of people, because of this game, have played this type of game."

Levine reckons this situation is similar to RTS games - arguably a relatively obscure genre which has become a bankable, solid performer thanks to a large audience familiar with its conventions and appeal.

"Go back and play Dune 2, and now look at them," he said. "They have build queues, all the complexity that you can have in games like Company of Heroes, with cover and stuff like that... It's because a system was popularised and people were willing to invest in it with confidence that there was going to be an audience.

"Before, as great as System Shock 2 and Deus Ex were, nobody bought them. We wanted to crack that. I think now, the sky's the limit for how deep these games can go."