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Square Enix could no longer invest in Hitman, but knew 'it wouldn't be Hitman unless made by IO'

Last week, IO Interactive described its decision to part ways with Square Enix earlier this year as a "watershed moment" for the studio. Now, Square Enix's CEO Yosuke Matsuda has praised IO's treatment of the Hitman series, but says SE could no longer "continue sufficiently investing" in it. 

In conversation with gamesindustry.biz, Matsuda suggests that despite its warm critical reception, the latest episodic Hitman failed to meet financial expectations following its release last year. 

"In the case of Hitman, I personally love the game," Matsuda tells GI.biz. "I think it's very unique, but I always have to look at things from the perspective of what it costs us to develop it and the performance it delivers. In doing that, in the case of Hitman, we had several expectations where that balance was not sufficiently achieved.

"Whether it's our Western studios or Japanese studios, at Square Enix we sometimes end up with conflicts or shortages in terms of resources. I felt that if we were not able to continue sufficiently investing in Hitman, it could wind up ruining the game—so we found ourselves in a difficult position. A decision had to be made in terms of our relationship with the Hitman team. I wanted them to continue to develop the game, but I thought in terms of investing further in the game it would be best if they worked with another partner other than ourselves."

IO of course went independent in June and have since confirmed a new Hitman game is in the works. The Danish outfit ultimately controls its own destiny from hereon, which Matsuda says encouraged Square Enix to support the management buyout (MBO) both parties agreed upon earlier this year.  

"I believe it wouldn't be Hitman unless it was Hitman made by IO," adds Matsuda. "I love the game, and I believe the fans of Hitman think it's only Hitman if it's made by IO. So I thought that was the best way for the game to continue, and that's why we were supportive of the MBO and of course didn't mind if they continued to use the IP."  

Read Phil's review of Agent 47's most recent outing here.