Hitman image with the IOI logo over it

After many weeks of rumors and dark clouds hanging over the future of the Hitman series Square Enix and IO Interactive have finally come to an arrangement. As of today IO Interactive is a fully independent studio, and perhaps most importantly of all, they have retained all of the rights to the Hitman IP!

What exactly this mean for the future of the series, I'm afraid that's not an easy question to answer, but IOI appears to be quite optimistic about their chances. Here's the full quote from the announcement:

"In its 19 years of history, Io-Interactive has brought you original and exciting entertainment; from Mini Ninjas and Freedom Fighters to gaming’s most notorious criminals Kane & Lynch and of course our beloved Agent 47. With our latest game, we have not only transformed Hitman, but also moved our entire studio into the AAA digital era. Our live product has disrupted the video game business and has received recognition and praise from press, community and our fans.

There are many tales of hope, dreams, hardship and joy within these walls. We have never strived for the expected or predictable. Instead, we are always in pursuit for what feels original and real. 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.

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. 

This is a watershed moment for IOI. As of today, we have complete control over the direction for our studio and the Hitman IP – we’re about to forge our own future and it’s incredibly exciting. We are now open to opportunities with future collaborators and partners to help strengthen us as a studio and ensure that we can produce the best games possible for our community.

I would like to say a big and sincere thank you to all of our players, community, friends in the media and everyone else connected to the studio for the messages of support that we have received in the last few weeks. I would also like to thank Square Enix; it has been a great family to be a part of and we are proud of what we have achieved together in the last eight years. IOI started as an independent studio and we will now return to those roots with an extremely passionate and talented team.

We are counting on the continued support of all our players; simply by having fun with everything we’ve released so far for HITMAN – and we want to encourage more of you to try our game. We have more details to come on our plans for that next week."

I have no doubts that IO Interactive can create another great Hitman game without Square Enix backing them up, but there is one rather large problem, and that is funding. Creating AAA games is a ridiculously pricey affair, and with IOI agreeing to a "management buyout" I doubt their finances are currently in a position to do so. As such, I'm expecting them to either go all-in on the second season of Hitman in order to pay off future expenses, or find some other publisher to team up with. Either way, I do hope things end up panning out for IOI as they are one of the few companies that actually dare create stealth games these days, and losing them would be a massive, massive shame!