Future Of Hitman Uncertain As Dev IO Interactive Put Up For Sale By Square Enix

Square Enix has announced intentions to divest ownership of IO Interactive, the Danish studio behind the Hitman series.

In a statement to its investors, the Japanese publisher reported what it described as an “extraordinary” $42 million loss for the financial year ending March 31, 2017. This is a result of the company’s decision to to narrow its focus on key franchises and studios.

“To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios,” it said in the statement. “As a result, the company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of [IO Interactive], a wholly‐owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017.

“This decision has resulted in booking of the extraordinary loss amounting to 4,898 million yen, including disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets, in the financial results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017.”

The statement indicates that the loss comes not only from its decision to offload IO Interactive, but also cease production on its ongoing projects, which likely includes more Hitman episodes. Square Enix went on to state it has begun discussions with new investors that could potentially purchase IO Interactive.

“Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interests of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.”

The wording doesn’t provide any assurance on the future of IO Interactive if a new investor isn’t secured, though it could mean the studio is closed and its staff displaced. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether the sale of IO Interactive would also include intellectual properties for any of the games it has developed.

In August of last year, IO Interactive said it was planning to release two more seasons worth of Hitman content. However, splitting the property from its developer could mean this never comes to fruition. Of course, it could also be that a new investor is able to negotiate the purchase of the property along with the studio.

The news comes as a shock, given the positive response to Hitman and the excitement for more of it. Additionally, IO Interactive recently rebranded itself and moved to a new studio in Copenhagen.

For it’s part, IO Interactive indicated it is staying focused on developing games amidst the uncertainty.

@NEOkeitaro Thanks for tweeting us. There’s a lot going on right now and we’ll have more to say at a later point. For now, back to making games.

— Io-Interactive (@IOInteractive) May 11, 2017

Square Enix became IO Interactive’s parent company when it acquired Eidos Interactive in 2009. In addition to Hitman, the studio is known for developing the Kane & Lynch series, as well as underrated action-adventure game Mini Ninjas. A job listing spotted in February also indicated IO Interactive was working on a new IP.

This news comes as part of Square Enix’s announcement of its financial results for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2017. Despite what you might assume given the IO Interactive news, Square Enix enjoyed record net sales (up 20% year-over-year) and operating income (up 20.3%). This was attributed in part to the release of big games like Final Fantasy XV and the PS4 version of Rise of the Tomb Raider, as well as “strong download sales of previously released catalogue titles.”

This story has been updated with additional details regarding Square Enix’s financials.

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