IO Interactive and the Hitman franchise is in a somewhat uncertain period as publisher Square Enix shifts focus.
Square Enix announced publicly this morning that it is withdrawing from business with developer IO Interactive after a number of years together. This move is somewhat surprising given IO Interactive was supposedly working on a second season of Hitman content after the stellar (and criminally underrated) season ended last year.
Although the news just went public a number of hours ago, apparently Square Enix’s decision was effective as of March 31, 2017. As noted in the official release above, the move to separate ties with IO Interactive cost Square Enix 4,898 million yen, which is a write down of roughly $43 million U.S.
Those hoping for more Hitman will likely have to wait as Square Enix owns the Hitman IP; meaning if another publisher picks up IO Interactive, they wouldn’t be able to continue making Hitman games. Of course, since IO Interactive is up for grabs, it’s possible that Square could sell the IP for the right price.
In the March 31, 2017 Financial Results Briefing Session, which you should read in full here, Square Enix explains that future releases from the publisher will focus on games as a service. Instead of one big release where the publisher and developer get a lump some at release, Square wants recurring revenue from its games. This could mean things like microtransactions in multiplayer games or episodic games like Life is Strange. Still, Hitman was technically an episodic release and only released a complete edition in early 2017. If the franchise reboot wasn’t performing as well as Square hoped, it could explain why it’s severing ties with IO Interactive.
While each release improved over the last, IO Interactive’s most recent releases weren’t quite as well received as the developer and publisher were hoping. Using metacritic to gauge reception, IO Interactive’s Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has a 66, Hitman Absolution has a 79 and Hitman had an 84.
Because of the high profile of both Square Enix and IO Interactive, there’ll likely be more to come of this development. On Twitter, IO Interactive is sending out the same response to those offering support, “There’s a lot going on right now and we’ll have more to say at a later point. For now, back to making games.”