The Hitman release schedule that was announced last September was what you might call unusual. The “Hitman Intro Pack” was set to come out in March for $35, and would include France, Italy, and Morocco sandbox locations, six missions, and weekly events running until April. New sandbox locations, in Thailand, the US, and Japan, along with more missions and whatnot, would follow in April, May, and June for another $30, or as part of an up-front cost of $60 for everything.
Today, however, developer IO Interactive announced that the plan has changed, and that Hitman will instead be a “truly episodic triple-A game experience, with a major live component.” Under the new scheme, the game will debut with a Prologue Mission and Paris location; the next location, Italy, will be released in April, followed by Morocco in May. The game will continue to expand after that with monthly and weekly content updates, until the season concludes with the release of Japan later this year.
“We decided to take the full leap and publish Hitman as a truly episodic game experience,” Io-Interactive Studio Head Hannes Seifert said. “Part of that decision is for that little bit of extra time to ensure every location we release is at the quality level fitting for a Hitman game. But the main driving reason is that this will allow us to create a living game that will expand and evolve over time and establish a foundation for the future—this is the first game in a storyline which will continue and expand with future Hitman games.”
Because the game is being doled out in smaller chunks, the prices have gone down. The “full experience” is still $60, but the initial Intro Pack, with the Prologue and Paris levels, will go for $15, and subsequent locations will be $10 each. A disc-based version of the game, which I assume will include the full season's content, will be released at the end of 2016.
What sounds like a drastic change of plans relatively late in the day will likely be a cause for some concern amongst the Hitman fanbase, but perhaps the whole episodic thing will play out as Seifert hopes. Telltale has enjoyed tremendous success with its episodic adventure releases. But there are some rather high-profile examples of episodic failure kicking around too, and even when they don't peter out completely, irregular release schedules can have a damaging effect.
The first chunk of Hitman will come out officially on March 11, but will go into beta before that on the PC on February 19. Access can be guaranteed by preordering either the Intro Pack or the Full Experience. Find out more at Hitman.com.