Square Enix to sell Hitman developer IO Interactive

May 12, 2017 // 11:05 a.m.

Tags: #bioware #bioware-montreal #closure #ea #electronic-arts #financial #hitman #io-interactive #mass-effect #sale #square-enix

Gaming giant Square Enix has confirmed that it is to sell off IO Interactive, acquired as part of Eidos in 2009, while rival Electronic Arts (EA) is reportedly downsizing its BioWare subsidiary.

Following decreasing revenues for its flagship Hitman franchise, Square Enix subsidiary IO Interactive made a bold decision: ditching the traditional full-release development cycle in favour of a gradual episodic release model. The imaginatively titled Hitman was a critical success following the release of its full first season but apparently not enough to satisfy Square Enix: The company has announced it is to sell off IO Interactive, casting a shadow over hopes for more games in the Hitman series.

Announced in a financial document (PDF warning), Square Enix explained that the decision to drop IO Interactive came earlier this year: 'To maximise player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios,' the statement reads. 'As a result, the Company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO Interactive A/S, a wholly‐owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017.'

For its part, Square Enix has taken a 4,898 million Yen loss (around £33.5 million) over the decision, and states that it is seeking a buyer for the now-defunct studio. 'As a result of this the Company started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment,' the statement continues. '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.' Should the sale fall through, IO Interactive will likely be closed.

At the same time as Square Enix' announcement, gaming site Kotaku cited unnamed sources 'close to [BioWare]' as claiming that the EA-owned company is putting its Mass Effect space opera franchise on hold following a poor reception for its latest entry, backing studio BioWare Montreal away from the series in favour of using its staff to aid other studios in development of their titles. While neither BioWare nor EA fully confirmed the claims, BioWare Montreal director Yanick Roy did suggest his staff were no longer focusing purely on Mass Effect: 'We have BioWare team members joining Motive projects that are underway,' he explained, '[and] we’re also ramping up teams on other BioWare projects in development.'

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