Square Enix share their reasons for dropping Hitman studio Io


Although they now seem to have landed on their feet, there was a few weeks where we weren’t sure what would become of Io Interactive and their revitalised Hitman series after they were cut loose by publisher Square Enix. Now that the dust has settled and everything seems to have resolved itself in the best possible way, Square Enix are ready to talk about what happened behind the scenes. In an interview with Gameindustry.biz, CEO Yosuke Matsuda laid out the facts, at least so far as the company was free to reveal.

In summary: blame Disney. I’m only half joking.

While the full story is of course more complicated than that, and everything seems amicably resolved now on every front, the bizarre truth is that Square Enix’s war-chest was looking a bit depleted. In order to comfortably bankroll an upcoming new project (which Gamedsindustry.biz believe to refer to a recent multi-game deal with Marvel, hence the Disney connection), the publisher decided to minimise risk factors and cut a less immediately profitable studio loose. While 2016’s Hitman had done reasonably well, it seems that Square Enix weren’t prepared to fund an entire second or third planned season of assassinations for a less consistent payout.

Everything could have ended in disaster at this point, with the studio sold separately and the property kept by Square Enix, but deals were reached and agreements made, and the publisher ended up selling Io back to its original owners at a $43m loss, and giving them the iconic franchise along with it.

While not immediately profitable for Square Enix, there’s a certain cold logic to it all – Hitman, even on the rise, is a gamble, and any future Hitman titles are going to be a risk fully shouldered by Io themselves, unless they strike a fresh publishing deal. Still, it does seem like Matsuda (recently seen as a joke boss in the Nier: Automata DLC) held the murder-sandbox series in high regard, and believed that Hitman couldn’t exist without Io, or vice versa.

In the end, all’s well that ends well. So, who here has tried the GOTY edition, courtesy of the now-independent studio? Completed the Escalation missions for each of the special costumes? If you haven’t already, check out the Cowboy escalation in Japan. If the third run doesn’t turn into a comedy spiral of barely-controlled murder, you’re probably doing it wrong.


  1. Halk says:

    How about sharing the reason why there still isn’t a NieR:Automata PC Patch 8 months after release?

  2. Grizzly says:

    The finaly GOTY mission in Hokkaido also has has the potential of some escelated murder, but yes, I hugely enjoyed the Hokkaido escelation! That being said, I do feel as if the content on offer in the GOTY is not worth the original asking price, compared what you get for just buying Season 1.

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    Frog says:

    Yeah, I’m a diehard Hitman fan from the original game. Io got my $20 to upgrade to the GOTY version. I’ve had a lot of fun with this version of Hitman.

    • Siimon says:

      What was added in DLC?

      • iucounu says:

        Four new missions in Bangkok, Sapienza, Colorado and Hokkaido – the maps have been shaken up as per missions like The Icon. The Colorado one is, uniquely, sniper-only (you can’t move from your sniper nest), with a nice new mechanic where you can shoot people into rose-bushes or haystacks to hide the bodies.

        There are four new disguises, new weapons (the Striker, a handgun that will go right through people, is a lot of fun), and new escalations on the new variant maps.

        I don’t feel bad about the extra cost, especially as I’m hoping IOI will do a Season 2 at some point and would like them to have the best chance at it.

  4. Jokerme says:

    It’s nice to see some amount decency in this money driven corporate world at least. If Square Enix wanted they could just ruin the Hitman IP and turn it into a quick cash grab with low effort junk to minimize their losses. I can certainly see EA or Konami doing that.

    We should give credit to where it’s due. SE was decent enough to live Hitman IP to IO and I appreciate that move.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      It’s a shame they weren’t willing to do that to the Tomb Raider or Deus Ex franchises. Gotta make some sacrifices to keep the Final Fantasy money hole sated, though.

  5. Avus says:

    IO is very lucky they were with Square Enix not EA.(or Microsoft)

  6. woodsey says:

    Isn’t Deus Ex also on ice for these Marvel games (and because Mankind Divided was carved in two, given microtransactions, and poorly marketed)? Here’s hoping they’re better than the vast majority of the films, at least.

  7. Carra says:

    I really enjoyed my time with Hitman. And there’s still plenty left for me to do in the game, I’ve only finished it once. I’ll replay it… one day.

  8. Mandrake42 says:

    Interesting. Maybe now they are sans big publisher maybe we will even get a Freedom Fighters sequel? Anyone remember that game?…no? Awww. Well I liked it and I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel :)