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Hitman: An Experiment on AAA Episodic Releases


When Square Enix and Io-Interactive announced that Hitman would go episodic, the first instinct was a disappointment for cash up-front demand only to deliver the game in piecemeal fashion. Seemed like a rip off.

And yet maybe this concept could work – but only if Hitman is able to deliver an experience solid enough to hold and retain the interest of its players.

Fixing What is Broken

The head of Io-Interactive, Hannes Seifert, said that they wanted to give Hitman time to create a game that will expand and evolve over time. This might be sensible considering how some games have overcome significant hurdles over time.

For example, Diablo III started out with significant issues, and it took Blizzard years and an expansion to fix it. This allowed the company to revive the franchise enough to make it one of the best isometric action RPGs in the market. Blizzard’s strategy was to finance the continuing development of Diablo III even with zero additional opportunities for in-game revenue, and this publisher had deep enough pockets to do it. That’s something Io-Interactive may not have, so it does the next best thing: go for episodic releases. Offer a taste of Hitman at a discount, check players’ reception of the first level, and then fix things up as they continue working on the rest of the levels.

Paying For What You Like

Unlike some other games that offer DLCs for additional charge, Hitman’s business model is quite straightforward. Get a lick of the game, see if you like the flavor, then buy the rest of the game if you like what you see. If you don’t like it, then at least you only wasted $15 instead of $60. The only downside here is having to wait for the rest of the content to be released, but it will be very interesting to see how Io-Interactive plans to get gamers hooked on Hitman long enough to shell out cash for one whole year.

Risk of Cancellation

One worrying possibility with the Hitman reboot is that it could lose support if sales are not strong enough to justify continued development. This happened to the Xenosaga RPG series and the more recent Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma games. Both series have got cancelled, Xenosaga because of internal disputes and Afro Samurai 2 because the quality was not good enough.

The end result was the same: disappointed gamers who were either unable to see the series completed or were given hasty and unsatisfying conclusions. This could happen to Hitman if Io Interactive is forced to cut corners due to poor sales or poor critical reception.

It will be interesting to watch and see if Io Interactive’s will be able to take Hitman to a new business model for AAA games or if the game fails and burns out after only a few months.

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