Square Enix’s recent announcement that it plans to divest ownership of Hitman developer IO Interactive came as a surprise, and it raised a number of questions. Chief among those: What does this mean for the future of Hitman?
When Square Enix first revealed its plans to explore a sale of IO, it did not indicate whether the Hitman IP would be sold off with it; it wasn’t out of the question that Square Enix could hold onto the rights and allow the franchise to become dormant. But that doesn’t appear to be the plan, based on a newly released English transcript of Square Enix’s post-earnings results briefing.
“Our decision to withdraw from the IO Interactive business was the result of a review of our portfolio that we conducted as part of our effort to concentrate our resources in order to strengthen our development capabilities,” Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda explained. “Because the firm is engaged in the development of Hitman and other renowned titles, we are negotiating with prospective external investors capable of ensuring that these titles carry on.”
That last bit is where the promising news comes in. Whether it sells the Hitman IP rights along with IO or is willing to license them out, there’s apparently a willingness on Square Enix’s part to allow Hitman to continue. As for the other “renowned titles,” IO is also the developer of the Kane & Lynch series. It is–or was–also at work on a new IP.
During a subsequent Q&A, Matsuda was asked for further specifics regarding the decision to sell IO. He responded, “Given the nature of the competitive landscape in the western markets as well as other considerations, we decided we needed to concentrate our development resources. The decision to withdraw from that business was the result of a review of our Group’s allocation of both financial and human resources.”
Since the news first came out, IO has suffered a round of layoffs, the extent of which are still unknown. The move could signal a potential sale or may simply be a move to make the studio more attractive to potential buyers. There’s not yet any word regarding who might be interested in buying the studio.