Hitman dev future uncertain

The news around IO Interactive doesn’t sound good today. Square Enix announced their decision to “withdraw from the business of IO Interactive” as of March 31, 2017. The publisher goes on to say they are in discussions with potential suitors to sell the studio.

Originally posted 5/11/2017.

11/7/17 UPDATE.

The Hitman franchise will live on. In a blog post about today’s GOTY launch, Io-Interactive CEO Hakan Abrak offers this tease about the future of the franchise.

“One last thing about our next Hitman game; I want to let you know that we’re making great progress and we have exciting new features and some franchise firsts, which we can’t wait to tell you all about. You’ll have to wait a little longer as we don’t plan to start talking about that until some point in 2018.”

Franchise firsts? That sounds intriguing.

6/16/17 UPDATE.

Great news Agent 47 fans! Today, IO Interactive announces they are officially an independent studio and are keeping the rights to the Hitman series. CEO Hakan Abrak revealed the news in a short statement. Here’s part it:

“We are counting on the continued support of all our players; simply by having fun with everything we’ve released so far for HITMAN – and we want to encourage more of you to try our game. We have more details to come on our plans for that next week.”

Hmm. Season 2 would be a good way to “encourage more of you to try our game.” I’ll keep this post updated as we learn more about IO Interactive’s plans. I’m just glad the HITMAN rights stick with them. If you haven’t given the new HITMAN a shot, keep your eyes peeled during Steam’s upcoming summer sale. You won’t be disappointed.

You can read the full statement from Abrak below:

In its 19 years of history, Io-Interactive has brought you original and exciting entertainment; from Mini Ninjas and Freedom Fighters to gaming’s most notorious criminals Kane & Lynch and of course our beloved Agent 47. With our latest game, we have not only transformed Hitman, but also moved our entire studio into the AAA digital era. Our live product has disrupted the video game business and has received recognition and praise from press, community and our fans.

There are many tales of hope, dreams, hardship and joy within these walls. We have never strived for the expected or predictable. Instead, we are always in pursuit for what feels original and real. Our passion and determination has never been greater and so that is why we have decided it is not the time to stop as we have many more exciting and original tales to tell.

Therefore I am proud to announce today that IOI is now officially an independent studio. We have successfully concluded our negotiations with Square Enix and have agreed to a management buyout. Crucially, we will keep all of the rights to the Hitman IP.

This is a watershed moment for IOI. As of today, we have complete control over the direction for our studio and the Hitman IP – we’re about to forge our own future and it’s incredibly exciting. We are now open to opportunities with future collaborators and partners to help strengthen us as a studio and ensure that we can produce the best games possible for our community.

I would like to say a big and sincere thank you to all of our players, community, friends in the media and everyone else connected to the studio for the messages of support that we have received in the last few weeks. I would also like to thank Square Enix; it has been a great family to be a part of and we are proud of what we have achieved together in the last eight years. IOI started as an independent studio and we will now return to those roots with an extremely passionate and talented team.

We are counting on the continued support of all our players; simply by having fun with everything we’ve released so far for HITMAN – and we want to encourage more of you to try our game. We have more details to come on our plans for that next week.

Thank you.

Hakan,

Io-Independent

5/26/17 UPDATE.

Hitman fans (including me) can feel a little bit of optimism about the future of the franchise today. Square Enix is looking at prospective buyers who will take IO Interactive and the Hitman IP. Here’s what Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda had to say about IO Interactive and Hitman at their recent earnings briefing (english transcript released today).

“Our decision to withdraw from the IO Interactive A/S
business was the result of a review of our portfolio that
we conducted as part of our effort to concentrate our
resources in order to strengthen our development
capabilities.”

“Because the firm is engaged in the development of
“HITMAN” and other renowned titles, we are negotiating
with prospective external investors capable of ensuring
that these titles carry on.”

That’s about the best news we could hear in this whole situation. I’ll keep this article updated as we learn more.

Original article continues.

Why the sudden shift from Square Enix? SteamSpy gives us a glimpse into the possible reason why. Hitman only has 631,277 owners (plus/minus 23,003). Again, these aren’t concrete numbers, but it gives us a decent idea of how the game performed. That’s compared to 3 million owners for Hitman: Absolution.

As for Hitman Season 2? It’s not looking good right now. Without a publisher, it’s likely on hold.

It’s hard not to point the finger at Hitman’s unusual episodic rollout as the reason why sales struggled. It sure as hell wasn’t the quality of the game. Hitman is a throwback to the days of Hitman: Blood Money.

Marketing and the always-online component appear to have kneecapped the game and potentially the developer. A rough stretch for a studio that recently moved to a new studio in Copenhagen. IO was even hiring multiplayer programmers to “help us bring multiplayer to the Glacier 2 engine.”

So what happens now? Obviously, the future is uncertain. Square Enix is looking into potential buyers for the studio to help the folks out, and to recoup on their “extraordinary loss” (this term is used to describe an unusual or unique loss. In this case, Square Enix moving away from IO Interactive).

There are a lot of moving parts here too. Who owns the IP? Will the sale of IO Interactive include the Hitman IP? What happens if no buyers can be found? The best case scenario is that IO Interactive owns the IP, or the sale is done as a package deal. The studio and the IP move together.

Support from Hitman fans has been pouring in all morning on Twitter. IO Interactive is thanking many of them and saying they will talk more “at a later point.”

We can only speculate on what will happen next. But without a publisher right now, it appears Hitman Season 2 is on hold. Best case scenario, one of the bigger multiplatform publishers scoops them up. Hell, I would even take Microsoft or Sony grabbing them. Sure, Hitman becoming exclusive isn’t ideal – but it beats the studio and IP going away completely.

Here’s to all the folks at IO Interactive landing on their feet. And if you’re interested in the Hitman franchise at all, give Hitman a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Where do you think IO Interactive would be a good fit at? Warner Bros? ZeniMax? Microsoft/Sony?

I’ll keep this post updated as we learn more about IO Interactive and Hitman’s future.


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