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A press note was recently issued by Square Enix where they announced that they're severing ties with Hitman developer IO Interactive. In doing so they're looking for buyers to pick up the game development studio as they focus on their more lucrative IPs.
They're reportedly set to take a loss of $43 million in the process, and are seeking investors for IO so that they can land comfortably on their feet. IO Interactive, for those of you who don't know, are famous for working on the Hitman game series, and have been doing so since 2000. Typically they had the games published under Eidos Interactive, famous for the Tomb Raider series.
Back in 2009, however, Square Enix picked up Eidos Interactive and scooped up IO Interactive and the Hitman series along with them. Since then, IO has been releasing fairly popular Hitman games across home consoles and PC, up until recently.
Their latest outing was the 2016 episodic series for Hitman, which started with a reboot/retelling of how Agent 47 ended up joining the contract requisition company known as the ICA.
And, speaking of Hitman... last year's episodic outing ended on a pretty big cliffhanger. IO took a different approach with the game by releasing a series of episodes that came out almost bi-monthly. The team had plans on releasing a second season to continue the story from where the first season left off. However, according to The Verge, Square Enix has put Hitman on hiatus, not unlike how Electronic Arts recently put Mass Effect on hiatus.
Square Enix also reportedly put the Deus Ex series on hold as well. This means that two of the biggest AAA properties from the last generation are likely going to sit out the rest of eighth gen gaming (depending on how long it lasts).
It's amazing, because Hitman: Blood Money and Hitman: Absolution were both pretty big games that garnered a lot of attention, including the latter title even appearing on Conan O'Brien's Clueless Gamer segment. Yes, that's how big Hitman used to be.
Eidos Montreal gained a ton of feedback and critically high remarks for the original Deus Ex: Human Revolution prequel, but didn't quite manage to strike gold the second time around with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Lucky for Eidos, however, Square didn't relinquish them the way they did IO Interactive.
Square has firmly decided instead to focus on Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy and other titles in their library that have proven to be consistent money makers.
This news, while sad, isn't too surprising. A lot of core gamers had mentioned back before about having reservations about Hitman adopting an episodic structure since it doesn't fit the model of a typical AAA release. IO Interactive wanted to try their hand at it, and while the game itself was well received, the episodic structure was not. It looks like they learned their lesson with that business model the hard way.
Hopefully IO can land on their feet and the Hitman franchise can find a home under a new publisher willing to take them on.