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Square Enix trying to find a buyer for IO, future of Hitman in doubt

"The Company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business."

Square Enix has announced the shock decision to sell Hitman developer IO Interactive, putting the future of the much-loved stealth series in doubt.

In a note to investors, the Japanese corporation warned of a £33m extraordinary loss in its financial results for the year ending 31st March 2017. The cause of this loss is the planned sale of the Danish studio.

Here's Square Enix's statement:

"To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios. 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."

Square Enix said it has started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment, but there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will conclude successfully. Based on the wording of Square Enix's note, it seems if a buyer can not be secured, IO will be shut down.

Square Enix has yet to say what exactly this means for the future of Hitman (we've asked for comment), but it doesn't look good. The £33m writedown may be the result of canning development on a second season for the game.

IO's troubles will come as a shock to many, given last year's Hitman turned out to be one of the best Hitman games ever and certainly one of Square Enix's best games in recent memory. But did it sell well enough for the suits at Square Enix? The new Hitman was sold as an episodic title before being bundled together on disc. IO has also continued to support Hitman with a raft of updates and in-game events (May marks the 14th consecutive month of new content releases into the game), and players had expected season two to kick off sooner rather than later.

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Square Enix picked up IO after it bought Eidos back in 2009. The current incarnation of Eidos operates as the western wing of Square Enix, managing the likes of Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex and Thief.

In November 2016, IO moved into swanky new offices in Copenhagen and re-branded its logo, and in March 2017 celebrated one year of the new Hitman.

Square Enix recently canned the Deus Ex series after disappointing sales of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It appears Square Enix is shifting focus to its recently-announced multi-game Marvel project and a new Tomb Raider game.

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