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Why Hitman Developer IO Interactive Should Be Xbox’s Next Target

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Danish developer IO Interactive made a name for itself over two decades ago when it released Hitman: Codename 47, the first in a long line of games starring everyone’s favorite sardonic assassin with a barcode tattooed on the back of his bald head. The series has spawned over half a dozen games, two major motion pictures, and lots of commercial success and critical acclaim.

Now, however, with the most recent Hitman game trilogy completed and all folded together under the Hitman: World of Assassination umbrella, IO Interactive is moving on to two other projects: a James Bond 007 game – of which little is known about so far – as well as a new online fantasy-RPG, which looks like it will come after Bond and we know even less about. Hitman, the studio says, is on hiatus for now.

All of this preamble is to set up what I’m about to say, and that is this: Microsoft, if it isn’t already, should be taking a long, hard look at IO Interactive as its next potential acquisition target – regardless of whether or not the Activision-Blizzard deal is approved by regulators, but especially if it isn’t. The fact is, there aren’t a lot of independent AAA game development studios left on the market. Embracer Group bought Gearbox (and a whole bunch of others), Sony took Bungie off the market, Microsoft has spent the past several years acquiring the likes of Obsidian, inXile, and Playground, etc.

To be fair, IO’s prowess outside of Hitman is, for now, relatively unproven. The original Xbox third-person strategy shooter Freedom Fighters was awesome, but that was a long time ago. The two Kane & Lynch games were also a long time ago, and they weren’t awesome. However, the studio seems like the perfect fit for James Bond, and if it works, that could develop into a long-term partnership with the licensor. The online fantasy-RPG is more of a wild card, but it’s so different from anything the studio has ever done that it’s bound to be, at the very least, a project that has creatively energized the IO team.

I’m not sure there’s a better bang-for-your-buck acquisition target out there than IO


As such, I’m not sure there’s a better bang-for-your-buck acquisition target out there than IO. Of course, that’s if they even want to be bought. They were owned by Eidos Interactive (later Square Enix) for many, many years, but the studio eventually negotiated its independence. That it has not only survived but thrived in the years since speaks to a well-managed organization. Microsoft would be wise to snap them up – again, if the studio is even willing to sit down at the negotiating table – and add hundreds of talented developers as well as one proven franchise (in a genre Xbox currently has no presence in), one potentially huge licensed game that could be to Xbox what Goldeneye was to Nintendo, and one fantasy-RPG that, well…OK, I guess Xbox already has plenty of in-house RPG talent. But hey, too much is never enough, right?

No doubt Phil Spencer has already picked up the phone and called IO Interactive at some point, but on the off chance he hasn’t, I certainly hope he will. I’m hard-pressed to think of a more talented studio that’s capable of delivering AAA success that’s not already been gobbled up by some other larger publisher or investment group. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the Activision-Blizzard situation first, but after that, I look forward to seeing what Microsoft does next.


Ryan McCaffrey is IGN's executive editor of previews and host of both IGN's weekly Xbox show, Podcast Unlocked, as well as our monthly(-ish) interview show, IGN Unfiltered. He's a North Jersey guy, so it's "Taylor ham," not "pork roll." Debate it with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.

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