‘Hitman’ Developer IO Interactive Dropped By Square Enix, Publisher Looking For Buyers

The Hitman series has been a staple of the Square Enix gaming portfolio that has struggled to find its footing in recent years. It does not look like the publisher will make another attempt at breathing new life into the franchise as it announced it is dropping developer IO Interactive, leaving the future of the franchise in doubt.

Square Enix revealed it is has decided to drop IO Interactive from its suite of studios in its financial report for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. The Japanese publisher touted record revenue and net profit, but clearly is not satisfied with the performance of the Hitman franchise and developer as of late.

To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios. As a result, the Company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO INTERACTIVE A/S, a wholly‐owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017. This decision has resulted in booking of the extraordinary loss amounting to 4,898 million yen, including disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets, in the financial results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017.

As a result of this the Company started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment. Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interest of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.

[Image by IO Interactive / Square Enix]

This leaves open the possibility that the Hitman franchise could live on since Square Enix will retain the rights to the property. However, the franchise is certainly on hold at the very least with Season 2 certainly canceled with no developer to support it.

IO Interactive was originally formed in 1990 before being acquired by Eidos Interactive in 2003. The company was then absorbed into Square Enix in 2009 when the Japanese publisher purchased Eidos and its catalog of games and studios.

The developer is best known for the Hitman series, but has also responsible for both Kane & Lynch titles and Mini Ninjas.

The 2016 Hitman release was a bold change to the structure of the franchise that saw constant changes to the proposed plans. The game was originally to be released with an “intro pack” that included all the base content with new missions, locations, and targets to be added as free updates after the game’s release.

This plan was altered prior to release to release include only the prolog and the Paris location as the base game. The rest of the Hitman content was to be released episodically for free on a monthly basis. IO Interactive did this to give themselves time to develop new locations and missions. The developer also used some celebrity assassination missions in an attempt to help draw attention to the game.

Completing a contract in the Hitman Sapienza area.
[Image by IO Interactive / Square Enix]

Reviews of Hitman were mixed with Metacritic scores ranging from 70 to 84 for the main game and all the add-on content for the first season. It did receive some critical acclaim with outlets like Giant Bomb falling loving the game and the format.

Still, the writing was on the wall that sales of Hitman were not up to snuff for Square Enix. Studio Head Hannes Seifert stepped down in February this year and was replaced by Studio Production Director Hakan Abrak.

Aside from the Hitman console and PC title, Square Enix also has mobile titles Hitman Go and Hitman: Sniper.

What do you think of Square Enix dropping IO Interactive and the potential future of the Hitman franchise? Sound off in the comments below.

[Featured Image by IO Interactive/Square Enix]