The strange release history of Square Enix’s next Hitman took another turn Thursday. Developer IO Interactive announced the game will shift to a full episodic release for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Hitman was originally going to be released in December 2015. This release was described as an “intro pack” that included all base content, three locations, six story missions, three sandboxes, a contracts mode, and regular events. Additional missions and locations set in Thailand, the United States, and Japan would be launched later.
Pre-orders for Hitman made on the PlayStation Store were suddenly canceled Wednesday, indicating a change. Other retailers also pulled their pre-orders. This led to today’s announcement from IO Interactive about the move to an episodic release.
“We’ve always said we won’t put anything out until it’s ready,” the developer wrote. “That means what we release has to hit the quality level you have come to expect from a HITMAN game. To ensure that level of quality, we made a big decision on how we’re releasing HITMAN. After a lot of consideration, we decided to take the full leap and publish HITMAN as a truly episodic game experience with a major live component. It’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly and we fully acknowledge that the decision may frustrate some players. But it is a shift that we believe will ensure the best possible foundation for this game and the future of HITMAN.”
“The exciting thing about going episodic is that this format allows us to create a living game that will expand and evolve over time,” the explanation continued. “This initial game release will help us build the foundation for where we want to take HITMAN. The first game is part one of a storyline we see expanding over the release of subsequent games – so we want to make absolutely sure we get things right for what will be a great Hitman experience expanding over the coming years. This first step is going to shape what the games will ultimately become.”
Hitman is still scheduled to launch on March 11. However, this will be the first of several episodic releases through 2016. The first episode is now the new Intro Pack and contains the game’s prologue and Paris location for $15. The other locations announced – Thailand, the United States, Japan, Sapienza, and Marrakesh – will be released as $10 add-ons.
IO Interactive is still planning monthly content updates to Hitman along with the previously announced weekly live events.
All of the add-ons can also be purchased at once for $50 after the Intro Pack or the “Full Experience” can be purchased upfront for $60. Those that would rather wait can hold off until the end of 2016 when the full game will be released to disk at the same $60 price.
— HITMAN (@Hitman) December 7, 2015
The Hitman beta is still on schedule to hit the PlayStation 4 and PC on February 12. You can guarantee access to the beta by pre-ordering either the $15 Intro Pack or $60 full experience. A Collector’s Edition of the game was also revealed that contains a 10-inch Agent 47 statue, art book, plus an Agent 47 red tie and clip. This costs $139.99 and is available from the Square Enix Store.
Going to a full episodic release with Hitman is a bold move for IO Interactive and Square Enix. It’s not been a successful approach for most developers outside of Telltale Games who really nailed the formula and hit it big starting with The Walking Dead after years toiling. The biggest challenge will be to make sure episodes are released in a timely fashion, something even Telltale has struggled with at times.
What do you think of Hitman going with an episodic release schedule? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Hitman]