It’s one of the genuinely nice success stories of the industry this week for Danish developer IO Interactive (IOI) as their latest title, Hitman 3, soars to the top of the charts and becomes the franchises’ most successful launch, outdoing its predecessor Hitman 2 by 17%.
Official sales numbers are as of yet unknown but accordingly from IOI themselves Hitman 3 is “the biggest digital launch in franchise history”. This clear success will mean all the more to the now independent Danish company as Hitman 3 marks their first time publishing independently.
A Legacy of Success
Early on in their storied history IOI entered a publishing deal with the now defunct Eidos Interactive. Here they remained to develop and publish the first of the Hitman series with Hitman: Codename 47, 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman Contracts, and Hitman Blood Money. Having also been fully acquired by Eidos Interactive with a £23 million majority buyout in 2004, the now tenth-largest European Studio got to work on their next series, Kane & Lynch—a heist shooter in the vein of famous genre movies like Heat and Jackie Brown.
After Eidos’ absorption into Japanese conglomerate Square Enix, IOI returned again to their flagship franchise with Hitman: Absolution; however the series new runner lost a lot of its core fan base by supposedly leaning too heavily into mainstream practices that strayed from the original title’s gameplay. From here IOI found themselves in a tumultuous period of redundancies and big-name dropouts.
Then, in 2017, having looked in shaky condition for a while now—despite the critical success of Hitman’s 2016 reboot—IO Interactive found themselves in a unique predicament when publisher Square Enix looked to withdraw funding from the developing studio and find potential new buyers.
A Watershed Moment
However, with Square Enix themselves appearing to be unsure of successfully finding viable funding, the future looked bleak for IO Interactive having only the one series property in Hitman to their name now.
In June 2017, however, IOI announced a managerial buyout of their own company and the Hitman IP to go fully independent in a move which studio head Hakan Abrak declared as a “watershed moment” for the company. The studio appeared determined then to get back down to the passion of their series and really create a title worthy of their fans.
But even the then independent IOI required a publishing deal with Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment in 2018 for the release of Hitman 2. Counter to the release of the 2016 Hitman reboot, 2 diverted from the episodic format and its initial launch saw it debut at tenth in the UK charts.
Now three years on and IOI have fulfilled their promise to both close out their beloved Hitman trilogy with Hitman 3, and to fully take control of their own impassioned destiny by publishing for the first time completely by themselves.
And the unconstrained result has been nothing short of magnificent with Agent 47’s dramatic flight up to the top of the charts, and a brilliant critical buzz seeing the game currently stand at an outstanding 87 score on Metacritic.
With Hitman 3’s chart-topping debut, long time chart leader Animal Crossing: New Horizons finally drops down to second place after three consecutive weeks with the crown. According to GamesIndustry.biz, Hitman 3’s sales breaks down into a dominant proportion of PS5 purchases (at 49% of the total sales coming from the new leading console)—which likely reflects the larger market share for the Ps5 over the Xbox Series X overall—while the Xbox version accounted for 27% of sales, and 25% for the Ps4.
Things Looking Up For IOI
The brilliant success story for IOI does not stop here, however. With this grand debut for their first independently published title, all signs point to positive hope for IOI’s recently announced 007 project—a wholly original James Bond game developing in conjunction with Bond license holders MGM and Eon Productions.
Hitman’s excellent brand of stealth and disguise action makes IOI the perfect and logical candidate to develop a game for the famous suave British spy. And hopefully the Danish developer can now continue their impassioned momentum off this recent success to produce yet another brilliant title.
Project 007 will also be developed using IOI’s Glacier engine—the same engine as used by the most recent Hitman games. As evidenced by Hitman 3, IOI are more than capable of producing a wholly original and effective narrative with innovative level designs and exemplary gameplay, so it is fair to say we have high hopes for this one.
Release and full title for Project 007 is as of yet unknown.