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IO Interactive, Danish video game developer best known for making the Hitman games since 2000, have had to announce the sad news that they're laying off staff due to their uncertain future. This all comes after the recent news that Square Enix was no longer keeping them under their publishing wing.
The message was oddly posted to their official Twitter account and not their official website. The message, as noted above, notes that they had to make some changes to their studio in light of being let go from the Square Enix publishing brand.
A week ago Square Enix published a note to investors (and the general public) letting them know that they would be relinquishing IO Interactive from under their services. They also noted that they would attempt to help IO find a new owner, and deal with the fallout from selling off the studio.
Square reported that they would be taking a multi-million dollar loss on the selling off of the studio, but they felt it was what was best for business in the long run for the vision they have for their publishing house.
Essentially Square wants to focus on Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, and other mobile titles generating strong revenue for the company. Both Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy, in particular, have really done well for Square, with the former securing a new licensed movie deal and the latter managing to saturate the market both with single-player blockbusters and multi-platform online titles.
Unfortunately for IO Interactive, the new episodic model for a AAA game like Hitman did not pan out for them. The near bi-monthly release of content was too scattered and required a little too much marketing muscle to keep people interested and entertained.
A lot of gamers had complained, previous to the release of the episodes, that they did not like that IO and Square would be breaking up the Hitman games into a multi-level series of releases. Despite these protests, the developers went with the model anyway and even though they received lots of critical feedback and positive review scores, they just couldn't secure enough sales over the course of 2016 to justify continuing on with a second season of the game.
They mentioned that it was an experiment they wanted to try in the AAA space since it worked so well for the single-A Telltale games that also use the episodic model. However, Telltale uses story hooks to keep gamers coming back for more, almost like comic books or anthology series. The typical gamers interested in AAA games just didn't take to the episodic nature of the Hitman reboot.
On the upside, Remedy Entertainment chimed in on the Twitter feed of IO Interactive's post and mentioned that they could hire a few people that are being laid off. A few other Danish and Finnish studios also chimed in offering their support.
Fans pitched the idea of possibly crowd-funding IO Interactive until they get back on their feet, but it was shot down when others mentioned that it would likely cost tens of millions of dollars to do so. For now, IO's future remains uncertain.