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IO Interactive is now independent

Update: Following management buyout, all profits from the first season of Hitman will go to IO

IO Interactive has negotiated a management buyout with Square Enix that will make it an independent studio.

In addition, the management buyout will also leave the Danish studio with the rights to the Hitman IP. In a statement published today, studio head Hakan Abrak declared the outcome of the uncertainty of recent weeks as "a watershed moment" for the company.

"As of today, we have complete control over the direction for our studio and the Hitman IP - we're about to forge our own future and it's incredibly exciting," he said. "We are now open to opportunities with future collaborators and partners to help strengthen us as a studio, and ensure that we can produce the best games possible for our community."

IO Interactive started as an independent company in 1998, and it was purchased by Eidos Interactive in 2003. It became part of Square Enix when Eidos was itself acquired in 2009.

The decision to drop the studio was announced by Square Enix last month, and it was unclear if it would survive without a buyer. IO's precarious situation prompted an outpouring of concern among its fans and throughout the industry, and a subsequent round of layoffs had many fearing the worst.

However, this resolution would appear to be a best case scenario for the company, giving it a degree of freedom it has not enjoyed in almost 15 years and full control over its most famous IP.

"There are many tales of hope, dreams, hardship and joy within these walls," Abrak continued. "We have never strived for the expected or predictable. Instead, we are always in pursuit for what feels original and real.

"Our passion and determination has never been greater and so that is why we have decided it is not the time to stop, as we have many more exciting and original tales to tell."

IO's most recent project was a bold reboot of the Hitman franchise, which adopted an episodic structure and didn't receive a physical release until almost a year after the first episode hit digital storefronts. Abrak said that Hitman has moved "the entire studio into the digital era" and "disrupted the video game business."

UPDATE: IO's community manager Travis Barbour has since confirmed that all profits from season one of the episodic Hitman are now going to the Danish studio. Barbour explained this in a response to a Twitter user, PCGamesN reports.

The studio has also announced the opening section of Hitman is now permanently free to download, no doubt in the hopes of onboarding more users as it pushes forward with development of season two.

Bravely, IO has also quietly dropped the Denuvo DRM that protected the game from piracy - perhaps confident that the first episode will convince enough people to purchase the full season, rather than download it illegally. We previously reported that the episodic business model has changed significantly, channelling customers to buy the complete series rather than each section.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.