At this level within the studio’s historical past, the Hitman sequence has been with IO Interactive longer than anybody working in its workplace; nobody on the firm has labored on each single entry within the franchise. For 20 years, the title IO has been synonymous with Hitman and its protagonist Agent 47. Whereas the developer has made different video games, such because the Kane & Lynch, Freedom Fighters, and Mini Ninjas video games, the overwhelming majority of its releases have been Hitman video games. However Hitman 3 is the top of an period. Capping off the World of Assassination trilogy it began in 2016 with its episodic Hitman reboot, IO is strolling away from its most iconic franchise – at the very least in the meanwhile. And there are a variety of feelings tied up in that truth.
In a variety of methods, the story of Hitman is the story of IO Interactive – particularly contemplating the corporate’s previous few years. All the time a distinct segment, cult sequence, when 2016’s Hitman did not make the return IO’s then-publisher and guardian firm Sq. Enix needed, as CEO and co-owner Hakan Abrik places it, the corporate “misplaced religion” within the franchise – although, admittedly, he appears to grasp Sq.’s resolution.
“It was referred to as a Trojan Horse technique, simply get individuals in and in the event that they prefer it, they are going to improve,” Abrik says. “Possibly we’ll get an entire lot greater volumes within the begin and hopefully we are able to convert these individuals in the event that they like the sport. That was the technique. The skepticism and, ‘What is that this?’ and ‘Is that this early entry from a giant writer?’ and whatnot, it ended up being traditionally low gross sales – a traditionally low begin.”
“And over time, even our writer – and proprietor – again then misplaced religion,” he says.
In Could 2017, Sq. Enix introduced it was selling IO Interactive as a part of a restructuring of “sources and energies on key franchises and studios.” Somewhat than wait to be bought by a brand new firm, IO negotiated a administration buyout with Sq., saying in June 2017 that it was, for the primary time in its historical past, a completely impartial developer, and that it might retain the rights to the Hitman mental property (IP). We’ll have a extra detailed story on IO as an impartial studio on the web site in coming weeks.
It was IO’s religion within the Hitman sequence and itself as a developer that has shepherded them each to success post-buyout. In line with IO’s co-owner and chief artistic officer Christian Elverdam, between Hitman 1 and a couple of, because of greater than 350 weekly and month-to-month updates, the video games have gone on to succeed in greater than 40 million gamers.
Hitman 3 is the corporate’s first launch as an impartial studio, nevertheless it’s additionally IO’s final Hitman recreation for some time. It marks the top of this chapter of Agent 47’s story and the top of this chapter of IO’s historical past.
“I believe I’m going to cry when it’s completed,” Hitman 3’s recreation director Mattias Engström says. “It’s been a trip and a pleasure to work on this for this lengthy.”
“I believe for me, the nostalgia shouldn’t be a lot concerning the recreation being completed, as a result of it can reside and it is going to be reside and other people will play it,” govt producer Forest Swartout Massive provides. “It’s extra concerning the privilege of attending to make the third iteration with this group of extraordinarily proficient, actually wonderful individuals who simply care a lot about their jobs. I don’t know if it can ever get higher than this.”
In November 2020, IO announced it was working with the James Bond license on a 007 recreation, particularly targeted on Bond’s origin story. Venture 007, as its at present referred to as, is the primary publicly identified non-Hitman recreation IO has labored on since Kane & Lynch 2: Canine Days launched in 2010, and its first new IP as an impartial studio. Though it’s completed different IP previously, Abrik and Elverdam each acknowledge their firm is seen because the Hitman studio. A recreation like Venture 007 is a option to transfer past that, they are saying.
“Hitman and IO Interactive are very, very intently knit, clearly,” Abrik says. “However I believe, shifting ahead, IO mustn’t essentially be talked about as ‘The Hitman studio IO Interactive,’ however at first, individuals ought to take into consideration IO Interactive as IO Interactive first, creators of various IPs and a spot of creativity the place Hitman is certainly considered one of our youngsters, however there are going to be extra youngsters sooner or later. And considered one of them is 007.”
“If you consider the way forward for Hitman as properly, if you consider the way forward for the Bond franchise, we’re in a spot the place we really feel curious and hungry, creatively,” Elverdam provides. “If you consider what would Bond be, what would Hitman be sooner or later, hopefully you’ll suppose, ‘hey these guys actually look like they … are interested by attempting to take the video games new locations.’”
Elverdam pushes again on the concept that IO is leaving Hitman behind. The truth is, he says it isn’t the top of the Hitman IP “in any respect.” As he factors out, the latest run of Hitman video games, which began in 2016 with the Hitman reboot, was at all times billed as a trilogy; Hitman 3, because the title would suggest, is the conclusion of that a part of Agent 47’s story. There is no actual purpose to suppose IO will not return to Hitman sooner or later; it is completely cheap to suppose the studio will, given how iconic the sequence is for IO. However given what the developer has gone by lately, strolling away from Hitman in the meanwhile, closing this chapter of Agent 47’s story with Hitman 3, feels becoming, Elverdam says.
“In a approach I believe it’s poetic that Hitman, in its prime in a approach, was the start for IO as an impartial firm,” Elverdam says. “Proper now, it’s additionally the start of IO as an impartial firm, as a result of the primary title that we launch is the ending of this conclusion. And that feels tremendous good, to be sincere. I believe the world of the Assassination trilogy, as a result of it is going to be an entire whenever you have a look at it; I believe it’s tremendous sturdy. I’m tremendous pleased with it. I’m tremendous pleased with what we achieved. That that is the very first thing that we launch makes me really feel actually good and actually snug concerning the future.”