IO Interactive's Hitman was received well over the course of its episodic release, however studio's future was placed in jeopardy when parent outfit Square Enix announced plans to sell earlier this year. IO responded by going independent in June, unveiling a Game of the Year Edition last month, and confirming another game is in the works last week.
In conversation with gamesindustry.biz, IO CEO Hakan Abrak describes the decision to go it alone as "a genuine watershed moment" for he and his colleagues—one which will inform the developer's games into the future.
"The AAA digital era is where we all are right now and it made perfect sense for Hitman Season One, " says Abrak. "Being able to create that experience and then continue to add to it has been immensely rewarding for IO Interactive, and we hope for our players too. That journey has not only changed Hitman, it has changed our thinking also, when it comes to creating new universes in the future.
"This has been a genuine watershed moment for us. Just like our games, it can be challenging at times, but now we're in control of what we do next and that's quite satisfying. Being independent means we don't have to do things the way we've done them in the past. We can decide what's right for IO Interactive, for Hitman and for our players. We can be more open with what we say and what we do. In other words: expect less corporate-speak, and more heart."
Elsewhere, Abrak feels he and his team are onto something good with the latest Hitman, and that while the episodic release nature of season one wasn't for everyone, the "live model" was a particular success.
To this end he says: "We learned so much during the first season of this game, and by the end we felt like a well-oiled machine... We're the first to admit we got some things right and some things wrong. Changing our business model before launch caused confusion, and we had some tech issues at launch. While the episodic nature of the main story campaign received major praise from the press and many gamers, it wasn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea. What did really work wonders for the game was the live model.
"Frequent release of content, challenges and live events really exceeded all expectations. With every content update we saw more and more players joining. All of that content took a herculean effort from the dev team, and it paid off... We learned a lot that will make the experience even better for the next game in the Hitman universe."
Read gamesindustry.biz's chat with Abrak in full in this direction.