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Square Enix drops Hitman developer IO Interactive

What does this mean for Hitman?

Hitman Episode 2 - Agent 47 in Sapienza streets
Agent 47 on the streets of Sapienza, the setting for the second episode of 2016’s Hitman.
IO Interactive/Square Enix
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Square Enix has decided to “withdraw” from IO Interactive, the Danish studio behind the Hitman franchise, and is now in discussions with potential new investors to pick up the company, the Japanese publisher announced today.

In a brief statement released alongside the earnings report for its 2017 fiscal year, Square Enix said it has “regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO Interactive” as of March 31, the end of its fiscal year. Square Enix recorded an “extraordinary loss” of 4.989 billion yen (approximately $43 million) in costs associated with divesting itself of IO Interactive, including “disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets.”

After deciding to drop IO Interactive, Square Enix began exploring options to bring in new investors for the studio, and it is “currently in negotiations to secure this investment,” the company said. Square Enix noted that it can’t guarantee success in finding someone to take over IO Interactive.

IO Interactive’s only active property was Hitman, the assassination franchise for which the studio is primarily and best known. The studio launched an episodic entry in the series, simply called Hitman, in March 2016 and concluded the game’s first season with its sixth and final episode in October. While Hitman received critical acclaim, it doesn’t sound like the episodic gamble paid off — Square Enix explained its decision to withdraw from the studio by saying, “We are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios.”

It’s unclear what this means for the future of Hitman or IO itself. The studio was planning a second season of the game, but never officially announced it. IO has not yet given a public statement regarding Square Enix’s announcement, although it has been sending variations of the following message to people on Twitter:

IO Interactive was founded in 1998; Eidos Interactive acquired the company in 2004, and the studio became a part of Square Enix in 2009, when the Japanese publisher bought Eidos. Since then, IO has shipped four games: Mini Ninjas (2009), Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (2010), Hitman: Absolution (2012) and Hitman. Square Enix has done other things with the Hitman IP as well — its mobile studio, Square Enix Montreal, released the acclaimed turn-based title Hitman Go in 2014 and the first-person shooter Hitman: Sniper the following year.

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