IO Interactive is now independent, keeps Hitman

Hitman studio IO Interactive is now independent again, after thirteen years of being owned by Eidos then Square Enix, and they’re getting to keep Hitman. The fate of both the Danish studio and their flagship series has been in question since May, when Square Enix announced they were cutting IO loose. While we’d heard that IO might be able to continue Hitman, things looked a bit grim when they laid off some staff shortly after. Now it’s a bit more sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

“We have successfully concluded our negotiations with Square Enix and have agreed to a management buyout,” IO CEO Hakan Abrak said in today’s announcement. “Crucially, we will keep all of the rights to the Hitman IP.” He calls this “a watershed moment” for the studio.

“As of today, we have complete control over the direction for our studio and the Hitman IP – we’re about to forge our own future and it’s incredibly exciting. We are now open to opportunities with future collaborators and partners to help strengthen us as a studio and ensure that we can produce the best games possible for our community.”

Abrak thanks players for their support, and thanks Square Enix for the time they had together. “It has been a great family to be a part of and we are proud of what we have achieved together in the last eight years,” he said.

He also drops a cheeky tease that “we want to encourage more of you to try our game” and says a plan is in motion. Demo? Discount? Free chapter? Dunno.

IO still have a lot of work ahead of them, as running an independent studio is no small task — especially when you’re built around big-budget games — but this is great news. After some bumps, the recent episodic Hitman turned out dandy.

I’ve dropped ’em a line asking what will happen with Kane & Lynch because hey, I really dig K&L 2.

24 Comments

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    Thulsa Hex says:

    Ah this is nice news. Hope it works out for them!

  2. Banks says:

    This is good news because square wont rape the IP again, but sadly we all know how this will end. It always happens the same. They won’t have proper funding or marketing and it will be a failure, and a critical one for IO.

    I really hope I’m wrong because I love what IO has done and I particularly adore last year’s HITMAN. Not only they can keep improving the formula to give us an amazing sequel, but also they have that special “something” as an studio. If given the opportunity, they can make fantastic new IP.

    I wish them the best of luck. They have delivered us some of the most memorable, joyful and perverse gaming moments. We need more people like that.

    • ulix says:

      They don’t really need a lot of funding for their next game. They can just use the framework (engine, tools, etc.) they already built for the first season, and make another Hitman game with the lessons learned from it. As a immersive sim with everything technical in place already the game wouldn’t need a big budget, since they don’t have to spend a lot on developing tools, making cutscenes, motion capture, engine licensing, etc.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        It’s a question without a good answer how much of that tech was licensed by Square Enix and not IO. They might wind up having to redevelop and renegotiate a lot of stuff that underpins the recent games.

      • Person of Interest says:

        I am not a game developer, but I’d wager that much of the development budget goes to mapping, modeling, mission design, marketing, and QA. Some models can be re-used; there will be fewer engine bugs to resolve this time around; the artists still on staff are hopefully experts in the tooling and asset pipeline. But I can’t imagine that building new environments, props, NPC outfits, and missions for the second season of Hitman will be anywhere near “cheap”.

    • epeternally says:

      You probably aren’t wrong. The fact that no one wanted to scoop up IO Interactive says a lot. Hitman proved to be a bad investment for Square Enix, no sane publisher would make that investment again. IO may have the IP, but unless they completely luck out they’re not going to have the resources to deliver a satisfactory sequel. What percentage of the not enough people who bought Hitman 2016 are going to buy a stripped down second season for the same price? Hitman is too intrinsically ambitious to be a $25 indie game and seems to have become too niche for the AAA market.

  3. roryok says:

    Always had a soft spot for IOI. I played the first two Hitman games to death and enjoyed Freedom Fighters (flawed but a lot of fun). They did very well to go from indie game dev to having two hollywood movies based off their IP. They’ll now retain that IP too. I hope they do well.

  4. poliovaccine says:

    Nice, very glad to hear they get to keep their single most valuable asset. Still hard to imagine how they got dropped at what seems like the height of the Hitman series, but maybe the episodic format was supposed to generate a lot more money than it did or something. Whatever.

    Better news than it could be, surely. I dont really care who their publisher is – I’m sure someone will pick em up, and in the meantime, I’m just glad Hitman didnt become one of those poor, orphaned IPs which publishers sit upon jealously for years like dragons upon their heaps of gold. It’s one of the very few series I love which havent been either milked to death (ugh what a horrible way to die.. milked to death) or else poisoned with some brainless shooter elements (the fact that people complained so bitterly about Absolution, which really was not *that* bad, shows how strong the series has remained).

    I grew up on these games! May I die by their hand! Euh..

    • jonahcutter says:

      Absolution was a decent, wannabee-Tarrantino, neonoir-themed, cover-based sneaker/shooter where you shooting and garrote your way to rescuing the little girl from S&M nuns and a greasy, scenery-chewing cowboy bossman while hiding behind couches and flower pots, zoning between chopped up levels and enjoying(?) cutscene explosions.

      As an operatic, stealth-based Hitman game that did justice to the series it really was that bad.

      Absolution was as much a Kane and Lynch 3 as it was a legit follow up to Blood Money.

  5. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    This keeps my dream of a HITMAN 2 level set on a train where your murders have to fool a nosy amateur detective alive.

  6. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    If they’re sensible they’ll be working on a second season of Hitman. With the game itself already finished, it shouldn’t be too costly to build a bunch of new missions, and that would give them some cash to work on other things.

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    heretic says:

    Yes Alice! K&L2 was great, I played it again recently – please let us know what they come back with.

    Slightly worried about independent though, they will need to find financial backers I guess, doubt Square will funnel HITMAN profits to them? Not sure how it works, whether studios get any royalties.

  8. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    I hope they kept the other IP’s too. I feel like Mini Ninjas and Freedom Fighters could be easily made into something cool, unique, and relatively inexpensive to develop, like a 2D sidescroller.

  9. Hyena Grin says:

    That’s decent news!

    I mean, I guess I would’ve preferred if they landed in a stable relationship with a publisher who would take care of them and their IP. Just to avoid the risk of Io going belly up before they can right the ship. But if they can wrangle things, independence might turn out to be a great thing for Io and Hitman.

    Well Io, I’m on board for the next season of Hitman, at least.

  10. Manburger says:

    Oh man, I’m really happy and relieved to hear this! (Best news of E3)
    For some reason I was optimistic that things would turn out okay, even though it seemed a bit dark when they had to let people go.
    Hopefully they can keep afloat and keep making fantastic games.
    I imagine all this turmoil might cause a delay and interrupt some plans, but I am quite excited for the second season HITMAN!*
    (*Sorry, SEASON II)

  11. rangerdie says:

    Well good for IOI and SE. They could of closed the studio and squatted on the ip for years but they did the right thing.

    I hope, if they IOI needs a publisher they don’t get sucked into the void by another gaping anus hole publisher like 2k, Activision, Besthesda, EA, Microsoft, Sony and Ubisoft.

  12. caff says:

    I suspect the Squeenix relationship was not an easy one. But well done IO, really loved Hitman and cannot wait for what you do next.

  13. DasBilligeAlien says:

    Any news on Kayne & Lynch?

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