Calling the shots: How Hitman 2 made the move to Warner Bros

“There is a strong desire for more Hitman-related content. To date the franchise has seen over 16 million players interact with a Hitman game.”

The Hitman franchise is now 18 years old and IO Interactive’s blood-soaked series is about to unleash its seventh major outing in the form of Hitman 2. But while the games have retained an icy-calm demeanour, behind the scenes the series has seen some turmoil.

Eidos published Agent 47’s early titles and liked him and the studio enough to buy them outright. Then Eidos itself was subsumed into Square Enix, which funded further surgical hits and even developed a couple of mobile titles around the IP.

Square Enix looked to have garroted the series, pulling funding after the episodic Hitman reboot. But mercy was granted as a successful management buyout kept the IP with IO Interactive. And Warner Bros was chosen to publish the latest title.

So what attracted the publisher, which rarely leaves it niche of own-brand titles and family entertainment, to the game?

“Hitman is an iconic gaming franchise and we are fans of the extraordinary work done by IO Interactive over the years,” Olivier Wolff, SVP of international games tells us. “Here at Warner Bros, we aim to work with the best talent to create the most exciting games possible so working with IO Interactive seemed like a natural fit.”

It looks as though Warner must have had scant time to plan a release, but Wolff just says that “it’s something [they] have had planned for a while,” and that studio and publisher were keen to have the product out for Christmas. 

“The seasonal period is a great window for games since they are the perfect gifting product. IO Interactive are known for producing high quality games and we all felt confident we could provide fans with the Hitman game they deserve, one that perfects the assassination sandbox experience.”

The switch in publishing duties is unlikely to affect, or even be noticed by consumers, Wolff tells us: “Fans just want to experience the best Hitman 2 game made by IO Interactive. We are helping facilitate this process so that they get to enjoy what the studio has worked so hard to create.”

Warner obviously sees something in the game that Square Enix could not, with Wolff commenting that “Hitman already has a vast fanbase and great potential for growth.” And with the Hitman: Definitive Edition release already chalked off, it has a clear idea of that potential.

“We learnt [from the Definitive Edition] that there is a strong desire for more Hitman-related content. In fact, to date the franchise has seen over 16 million players interact with a Hitman game.”

That Definitive Edition came about thanks to the episodic release schedule of the last title, which IO originally stated was designed to mimic TV seasons, though it underwent numerous changes during development. Sadly, that experiment wasn’t an unqualified success, as Hitman 2 is a more traditional release.

“Hitman 2 will have all locations available Day One in both physical and digital formats as usual for triple-A games,” explains Wolff. “We’re excited to bring the full experience to players all at once, so they can enjoy the main story at their own pace,” he adds. 

The idea of the game as a living, evolving title hasn’t been entirely jettisoned though. Providing all the levels from the off “will also allow the team to release more varied free live content across all of the locations,” Wolff explains. 

However, IO and Warner haven’t become entirely predictable with their content release schedule. The new game was promoted by a standalone experience: Hitman Sniper Assassin. 

“Sniper Assassin is our pre-order bonus and a new standalone mode that brings a co-op experience to the Hitman series for the first time, allowing two players to work together online to take down their targets,” Wolff explains. “Those who pre-order can
play it immediately. It is a significant piece of content and one that we feel rewards early adopters and fans of Hitman.”

The game’s three levels add up to a couple of hours of solid content. And it looks to have been pitched perfectly to attract the players of those endlessly-popular mobile sniping games. 

As for the game itself, it’s looking like a treat for would-be assassins. 

“In Hitman 2, IO Interactive has created a game that brings players into the ultimate world of assassination with new, hyper-detailed locations, a new multiplayer element called Ghost Mode and online co-op through the new Sniper Assassin mode. As a fan I can’t wait to try it for myself,” Wolff enthuses.

It’s great to see the game back for another outing, especially given the passionate fanbase and positive critical response for the last title. Let’s hope that a return to a more traditional, full game, boxed and digital release, allows the series to continue offing the rich, famous and disagreeable for many years to come.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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