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.