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.

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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