Square Enix could shutter IO Interactive, future of Hitman franchise in doubt

IO Interactive lays off staff as Square Enix moves to sell or shutter studio

io interactive independent keeps hitman rights featured

Though IO Interactive’s episodic Hitman reboot was lauded by players for its creativity and was, at least according to the studio, commercially successful, publisher and IO Interactive parent company Square Enix appears to have been dissatisfied with the game’s performance. Square Enix announced plans on May 11 to “withdraw from business” with IO Interactive, leaving the future of the Hitman series and a potential second season of the current game up in the air.

In the announcement, Square Enix said it plans to focus its resources on “key franchises and studios,” of which it apparently doesn’t consider Hitman to be one. Other Square Enix-owned franchises include Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics, Deus Ex from Eidos Montreal, and the long-running Final Fantasy series. The publisher also recently released NieR: Automata, developed by acclaimed action studio PlatinumGames.

“This decision has resulted in booking of the extraordinary loss amounting to 4,898 million yen, including disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets, in the financial results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017,” Square Enix said in the announcement. Converted to dollars, the loss stands at about $43 million. The publisher’s financial results have otherwise been quite impressive, with record-high net sales and operating income during the same fiscal year due to the success of its other AAA franchises and growth in digital sales.

IO Interactive announced via a Twitter post on May 23 that it had laid off some of its staff, adding that the studio is “doing everything possible to look after everyone affected” and that the change “will allow [it] to be better equipped for [its] future adventures.”

IO Interactive isn’t defunct yet, as Square Enix plans to attract “potential new investors” for the studio, but it’s unclear exactly what this means for the future of Hitman. The game’s physical version was released earlier this year as the “first season” and updates have continued to roll out since the first episode launched in 2016. IO has worked on a number of different projects in the past, as well, including the Kane & Lynch series and cult-hit shooter Freedom Fighters.

Updated on 5-23-2017 by Gabe Gurwin: Updated with announcement of layoffs at the studio