Earlier this year, Hitman series developer IO Interactive left the umbrella of Square Enix to go fully independent. The studio, which created the franchise and has served as caretaker of Agent 47 for nearly two decades, even kept the rights to their famed assassination simulator. But the decision was about more than money, Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda said in a surprisingly candid interview with GamesIndustry.biz.
Matsuda began the interview by addressing why he let IO Interactive split from his company. "Whether it's our Western studios or Japanese studios, at Square Enix we sometimes end up with conflicts or shortages in terms of resources," Matsuda said. "I felt that if we were not able to continue sufficiently investing in Hitman, it could wind up ruining the game - so we found ourselves in a difficult position."
Now, you may recall that the latest Hitman game (simply titled "Hitman") actually performed fairly well, receiving critical acclaim and finding financial success. It would have been a valuable intellectual property for Matsuda to have in his pocket, even if investing further in IO was no longer financially viable.
But in a surprising move, rather than keep the license and cash in on the Hitman name, Matsuda chose to let IO depart with their bald-headed killer. If that's not enough, Matsuda spells it out pretty plain later in the interview: "It's because I believe it wouldn't be Hitman unless it was Hitman made by IO," Matsuda said. "I love the game, and I believe the fans of Hitman think it's only Hitman if it's made by IO."
If for some reason you don't believe him, here's Matsuda playing Hitman 2016 at E3:
I don't know about you, but I think that looks like a guy legitimately having fun.