The Painful Reality of the Video Game Business
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Can't wait to play Hitman Season 2? Well, too bad. Square Enix released a statement about their decision to shift its focus on other properties following a $42 million yen loss for the financial year. Therefore, the publisher has cut ties with IO Interactive. The fate of Hitman Season 2 - let alone the franchise - is in jeopardy. According to Square Enix’s carefully padded statement, there are negotiations taking place, but even it admits that success isn’t guaranteed. Although the publisher claims it wishes "to maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward," Hitman’s players will undoubtedly feel burned. 

This may come as quite a shock to some. IO Interactive supposedly confirmed in November of 2016 that the second season of Hitman was definitely in the works, and you can sense the team’s confidence when it described how it was able to achieve a quick turnaround for the new levels. The news of the separation comes with an aftershock. The divorce actually happened back in March of 2017. That’s gotta hurt more for fans of the first season.

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When it comes to transitions in power, gamers lose. The near obliteration of Hitman Season 2 is the perfect example. Ultimately, it’s Square Enix's decision, and it is justified in choosing the strategy that will most assuage the concerns of its investors. Some series-ruining decisions happen for good reasons. I remember when Swery 65 announced his departure from Access Studios, thus crushing any possibility of a second season of D4. I can't blame Swery because he needed to improve his health, and the story has a somewhat happy ending now that he’s back with a new studio. A creator's physical health is easier to stomach than a company's financial health, however. 

Sometimes, the business behind happens in the shadows and gamers are left wondering why. I remember when Disney bought out Lucas Arts and then killed off several games in development. One of them was Star Wars 1313, which was supposed to be a darker story about Boba Fett. You can also find recent examples from Square Enix itself. Sleeping Dogs and Rise of the Tomb Raider, despite selling millions of copies and receiving critical acclaim, failed to reach the publisher’s lofty expectations. Tomb Raider was lucky; Sleeping Dogs was not. (Although, I guess we’re getting a movie adaptation starring Donnie Yen, for what it's worth).

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If there's any consolation that can come from this situation, then I can think of two. First, I think Hitman is too recognizable to remain hidden in the shadows. Eventually, it will blow its own cover. Second, maybe IO could crowdfund a spiritual successor. Both options seem possible. After THQ went out of business, did you think that a third Darksiders game would ever come out? I didn’t, but look who turned out to be pleasantly wrong. Of course, let’s hope Hitman can receive similar results.

Still, returning to a more pessimistic note, I can only imagine how much less of a sting this might feel had it not been for episodic gaming. The format implies there’s more to come, and nothing quite matches the disappointment of a cliffhanger that refuses to let go. Just ask anyone still waiting for Half-Life 2: Episode 3, let alone Half-Life 3.

Garrett Glass
Garrett Glass
@_garrettglass

Contributing Writer
Date: 05/22/2017

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