IO Interactive's decision to release the new Hitman game in a series of episodes is the answer to a problem the games industry needs to solve: "How we make a AAA accessible to people that cannot spend $60 [£40] on day one."
In an interview with Ars Technica, IO studio head Hans Seifert clarified that Hitman will have no additional microtransactions or DLC, and its players will have the option to buy all of the content for one price at the start of the process. However, there will also be other, more affordable options for those who are intrigued but undecided, and those who want to participate in shaping the game as the "season" progresses.
"When you do something new and groundbreaking then it's normal that people will scrutinise us, and I think that's only fair," Seifert said, adding that the Hitman series has existed for almost 16 years. "After so many years people have certain expectations. We do try to fulfil those expectations, but we also know that we have to do something to move us into the future. Releasing [the game] in this way opens us up to so many more opportunities than we've had in the past. Those opportunities apply to the players and us as developers."
Though episodic and early access games are now relatively commonplace, Hitman is arguably the first AAA production to deviate from a conventional release pattern. Seifert described it as "a platform," with the actual game only shipping when the process finishes at the end of 2016. It is a pattern IO expects other developers to follow.
"I sincerely think that it would be good for many games to do something similar, and many will follow in future," Seifert said. "But I'm also convinced that it's not for every game. You need to have a game that makes sense within this kind of approach. If you've got something that is extremely story driven and very linear then this isn't a model that you would consider, maybe.
"If you have something more interesting in terms of being able to be played as a toy, and is very replayable and perhaps mission based, then it could work and I think there are quite a few games out there that I could see fitting it really well."