Now more than ever, Square-Enix needs a video game franchise to that comes out on an annual basis and earns the publisher enough to continue funding bigger projects that take years to develop, particularly its core Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. What series can fill that role? Deus Ex? Tomb Raider? Kingdom Hearts? With six years standing between IO Interactive’s Hitman: Blood Money and the newly released Hitman: Absolution, that assassin-starring stealth series doesn’t seem like a good fit for perennial work horse, but it appears that Square-Enix will put it to the task.
According to an interview Hitman: Absolution director Tore Blystad in Official PlayStation Magazine (via Eurogamer), IO Interactive now shares development duties on the series with another studio in the Square-Enix empire. The goal is to put out a new Hitman game each year, with the two studios alternating, much like Activision’s structure for the Call of Duty series.
“It’s like with Treyarch and Infinity Ward,” explained Blystad, “You have an IP that has been developed. They will feed off each other, as well as [have] some things that stand out. I think with these big franchises it takes time to develop just one game. If you can work a little bit in parallel at least and help each other out.”
Blystad also commented on how it feels to let another team work on his signature creation. “There are talks between us and of course it has to be somewhat in sync, but it’s the first time you could say Hitman has gone out of the house. Luckily it’s with someone we know. Some of the key developers came from IO and have been working on previous games so it’s not like it’s in completely new hands.”
IO Interactive’s new franchise partner was actually opened specifically to work on other studios’ series. Square-Enix Montreal, the team behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the upcoming Thief 4, will share Hitman development duties with IO Interactive. Stealth play and games with a variety of choices are Square Enix Montreal’s specialties so Hitman makes a good fit for the team.
“Square-Enix Montreal will work in step with IO Interactive so we can both contribute great games to the Hitman franchise in the future,” said the Montreal studio’s boss Lee Singleton, “We will increase the frequency of game releases, but we have no plans to migrate the franchise to Montreal in its entirety.”