‘Hitman’ lives on amid Square Enix split, first episode available for free

io interactive independent keeps hitman rights featured
Update: Added information on Hitman’s free first episode, available now on consoles and PC.

A few weeks ago, publisher Square Enix announced that it planned to sell or shutter Hitman developer IO Interactive following the game’s lower-than-expected sales figures, putting the future of the longtime stealth franchise in question. Today, we have some good news to report for fans of the studio and franchise. Not only has IO Interactive regained its independence, but it has taken the rights to the Hitman franchise with it.

“Our passion and determination has never been greater and so that is why we have decided it is not the time to stop as we have many more exciting and original tales to tell,” said CEO Hakan Abrak. “Therefore I am proud to announce today that IOI is now officially an independent studio. We have successfully concluded our negotiations with Square Enix and have agreed to a management buyout. Crucially, we will keep all of the rights to the Hitman IP.”

IO Interactive owns the rights to the franchise, so it could feasibly choose to self-publish the second season of Hitman at a later date, but Abrak added that the studio is “open to opportunities with future collaborators and partners.” It’s unclear if IO plans to rehire any of the employees it was forced to let go in May, or if Hitman will be scaled down as a result of the buyout.

For stealth-action fans, it’s especially important to hear about Hitman‘s second lease on life, as the other major espionage franchise, Splinter Cell, sounds like it’s at least a couple of years away, and Metal Gear has gone completely off the rails with a zombie-focused spinoff.

If you haven’t given Hitman a try yet, the game’s first location, the ICA Facility, is available for free on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It contains two story missions as well as their cinematics, challenges, “Escalation” contracts, achievements, and even user-created content. Any progress and achievements or trophies you earn will be carried over into the full game, should you choose to purchase it, and a hefty discount has been applied to the “full season” for the next week.

Last year, IO told Tech Crunch that Hitman was “a success,” and it continued to receive substantial content updates. These added everything from new objectives to the opportunity to murder Gary Busey in cold blood. We can guarantee there is no other game that allows you to do that. The game has continued to receive other “elusive targets” since then, and a MacOS version is even scheduled to arrive next week.

The first season of Hitman is now available as a physical disc for $50 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and as a digital download on both consoles and PC. The disc includes three bonus mission packs, a “making of” documentary, extra items, and the game’s soundtrack.

Gaming

Still trying to unlock your main in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Try these tips

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s biggest entry in the series to date with over 70 characters to unlock, but the process can feel tiresome. Here are our tips to unlock your roster as quickly as possible.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ adds sword from ‘Infinity Blade,’ which disappears from App Store

Epic Games has added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to Fortnite just as it pulled all three games in the Infinity Blade trilogy from sale. The games are still available to download if you bought them.
Gaming

PS4 vs. Switch: After weighing the pros and cons, which one comes out on top?

Nintendo Switch versus PlayStation 4: Which one has better overall value? We break down the pros and cons of each platform to tell you which of these consoles is truly worth the money.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ Season 7 brings ziplines and airplanes as holiday gifts

The seventh season of Fortnite has arrived, and the holiday-themed update adds new weaponized airplanes to battle royale. The update also adds holiday wrapping for weapons and vehicles.
Gaming

‘Dead by Daylight’ raises over $500,000 for charity, is now on consoles

Dead by Daylight, a horror survival game where four players take on the role of Survivors against a fifth player who controls the Killer, has raised more than $500,000 for charity. The Charity Case DLC is now also available on consoles.
Gaming

How to make a clan in ‘Destiny 2’ and where to go from there

Want to know how to make a clan in 'Destiny 2'? Here's everything you need to know, including how to design your clan's banner, earn extra loot, and help other players with guided games.
Gaming

Ditch the meditation app. 'Katamari Damacy Reroll' is pure gaming zen

Katamari Damacy Reroll brings the magic of the PS2 classic to Nintendo Switch and PC. With updated visuals and the same great, singular loop, Reroll stands the test of time. Katamari Damacy is the ultimate relaxation game.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Gaming

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in 'Destiny 2'? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Deals

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Deals

The NES Classic is back in stock just in time for the holidays

The NES Classic is back in stock at multiple outlets at its original launch price of $60 in time for Christmas. Retailers offering it online are Walmart, GameStop, Target, and Best Buy -- if you're looking for the perfect holiday gift for…
Gaming

Some ‘Fortnite’ players aren’t too happy with the new Infinity Blade weapon

The most recent update for Fortnite added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to battle royale, and some players aren't happy with how much it has changed the game during competitions.