News just broke that Square Enix is looking for a buyer for Hitman developer IO Interactive. The studio is being put up for sale which means the future of Hitman series hangs in the balance. Hitman 2016 but was suppose to have more seasons as part of its episodic structure but it is safe to say this idea is scrapped and anything under development is put on ice.
It is sad and heartbreaking to see Agent 47 go, especially, when Hitman 2016 felt like a new beginning for the franchise. It is understandable that Square Enix would try to cut ties with IO, the studio lost $50 million in one year which is just not sustainable for the publisher.
However, even though Hitman 2016 was an enjoyable experience, it seems that the latest installment was the victim of Square’s confused vision. The company has a history of jumping on trends and at the time of Hitman 2016, episodic games were trending. The episodic structure for me, personally, worked well as I had more to look forward to every time I am done with an episode. It keeps me engaged with the franchise for a prolonged period of time but I understand that such a model is not popular among the majority of our community, it needed more time to grow and for people to see its potential.
Hitman 2016 was the very first AAA game to apply an episodic model and at the time no one really knew how to implement this on a larger scale.
What’s interesting is that Hitman actually pulled it off and it convinced the industry that such a model is the future of games like Hitman. However, its mediocre financial performance and the fact that IO was bleeding money undermined Hitman’s positives.
Hitman took a shot at merging a singleplayer experience and service based model. Releasing, regular content, adding new activities, among other things to keep the player engaged. It is a hybrid of SP and service based online games. This hybrid genre needed more time and frankly, I am disappointed that Square Enix backed out so soon. This move will likely discourage other publishers planning to follow in Hitman’s footsteps.
All hope isn’t lost; Hitman is still owned by Square Enix so we may see Agent 47 return. However, I can confirm that he will not be returning anytime soon. Sources inside the company mention that Square Enix doesn’t see Hitman as a cash cow and now prefers working on Final Fantasy and new IPs.