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Studio’s sale doesn’t mean Hitman’s end, says Square Enix

Publisher considers a new steward of the 17-year-old franchise

hitman IO Interactive
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The sale of Hitman developer IO Interactive doesn't necessarily mean the end of that game franchise, according to the president of Square Enix, which cut ties with the studio earlier this month.

As noticed by GameSpot yesterday, Yosuke Matsuda told investors that Square Enix is "negotiating with prospective external investors capable of ensuring that these titles carry on." In this case, "these titles" mean whatever IO Interactive was working on before everyone was canned.

IO Interactive, based in Denmark, had been a Square Enix subsidiary before the May 11 announcement.

Hitman is IO Interactive's distinguishing franchise, followed by Kane & Lynch, a stylish but poorly received shooter that debuted in 2007 to great controversy and saw an unimpressive sequel in 2010. Hitman began in 2000 with Hitman: Codename 47 on PC before breaking out in 2002 with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin on all consoles of that era.

Matsuda's comment doesn't by itself mean Hitman will continue; video game publishers never — ever — say a franchise is canceled, closed or discontinued, mostly because shutting down a trademark is a bad business idea.

Asked by an analyst about the decision to jettison IO, Matsuda cited "the nature of the competitive landscape in the Western markets.

"We decided we needed to concentrate our development resources," Matsuda said. "The decision to withdraw from that business was the result of a review of our Group's allocation of both financial and human resources."