After a year or so of rumors, 2K has finally come out to acknowledge that BioShock 4 is in development. It's been six years since the last BioShock game, double the time between each of the other three games in the series. After at least one internal cancellation and reboot, BioShock 4 is properly on its way now.
We don't know many concrete details about the next BioShock game just yet. It was only in December 2019 that 2K announced the name of the studio working on the game. The press release didn't give any details on the game itself, so we're mostly down to speculation and waiting.
In the meantime, here are the few details we do know about who is working on BioShock 4, when it could be released, and what its story might be like.
What's the release date for BioShock 4?
Unfortunately it's way too early to be talking release dates. The formation of the new 2K studio developing BioShock 4 was just announced, and although we can hope it's entered full production already, we don't actually know what stage the game is in.
2K formed a new studio to work on BioShock 4
Although rumors about the next BioShock game had been circulating for about a year prior, we finally got confirmation of its existence when publisher 2K announced the formation of the new studio Cloud Chamber.
2K describes the new studio, led by Kelley Gilmore, as "a collective of storytellers eager to push the frontlines of interactive entertainment by making unique, entertaining and thoughtful experiences that engage the world."
One thing we definitely know is that Ken Levine, creative director from BioShock 1 and Infinite, won't be involved. Levine shut down Irrational Games after wrapping up BioShock Infinite and has since launched new, smaller studio Ghost Story Games (also under 2K) to work on an unannounced project.
Will BioShock 4 still be a shooter?
Definitely. When announcing that BioShock 4 is in the works, 2K said it can't wait to see where the new studio Cloud Chamber takes its "powerful narrative and iconic, first-person shooter gameplay" in the future.
BioShock may be in new hands, which does inevitably mean some change, but it sounds like Cloud Chamber will be marching along with a focus on what made the previous games popular.
How long has BioShock 4 been in development?
According to a Kotaku report, this isn't the first iteration of BioShock 4. Apparently it was originally in development at Certain Affinity under the codename Parkside in 2015. That version of BioShock 4 was cancelled sometime in 2016. The current version of BioShock 4 has been in development, Kotaku says, since 2017.
Fortunately, that's plenty of time for the studio to have gotten a head start on the new game. Although Cloud Chamber's existence was only just announced, it sounds like the team has been quietly working on BioShock 4 for some time. They didn't just put pencils to paper for the first time in December.
Do we know anything about BioShock 4's story?
BioShock Infinite's final DLC, Burial at Sea, wrapped up some loose ends, which makes it a bit hard to speculate on what the next game will be like. It seems unlikely that BioShock 4 will be a direct sequel to Infinite.
We'd speculate that BioShock 4 might distance itself from Infinite a bit by exploring new characters and new locations. Given the infinite lighthouses leading to alternate worlds in Infinite's Sea of Doors, perhaps we'll end up visiting another reality entirely. Oh, and Cloud Chamber's website has a lighthouse centered pretty prominently near the top of the page, which reads like a clue to us. There's always a lighthouse, etc.
We can at least rest easy knowing that where and whenever BioShock 4's story takes place, the story itself will be an important part of the experience. "We founded Cloud Chamber to create yet-to-be-discovered worlds—and their stories within—that push the boundaries of what is possible in the video game medium," says the new studio's global studio head Kelley Gilmore.
The phrase "yet-to-be-discovered worlds" does suggest that BioShock 4 will be headed somewhere entirely new rather than back to Rapture.
Can the ol' job postings trick tell us anything about BioShock 4?
Occasionally there are juicy details to be gleaned from a company's public job postings. Now that its existence has been revealed, Cloud Chamber is hiring up at its San Francisco and Montreal locations and there are quite a few positions available.
They seem to be all pretty standard job postings, so it doesn't seem there's much to be learned here just yet. Cloud Chamber is looking for producers, engineers, level designers, environment artists, combat designers, and a bunch of other jobs that you'd commonly see for any large game.
What we can tell is that Cloud Chamber is definitely staffing up. If BioShock 4 isn't already churning in full production mode, it certainly will be sooner rather than later. Back when the project codenamed Parkside was in the hands of Certain Affinity, a Kotaku report quoted someone involved as saying, "The issue is that Parkside’s not ready for lots of people."
Now that BioShock 4 is being handled by Cloud Chamber and has presumably been through a period of pre-production, it seems the project finally is ready for an infusion of talent.
When will we hear more about BioShock 4?
Given how tight-lipped 2K and Cloud Chamber have been so far, it could be a while before we hear more about the next BioShock. As with most big-budget games, it seems most likely that we'll get new details or a trailer for BioShock 4 at one of the game industry events in 2020.
Before companies began reacting to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual Game Developers Conference would have been in March 2020 and E3 was to be in June. It's always possible that 2K could drop a trailer for us on any random weekday of the year, but those two events were possible goalposts to look forward to if you're hungry for more info. Both events are now taking a quasi-online form, so there's still the potential for an announcement. You can keep up with what we expect to hear about on our E3 schedule.