Let’s talk: Hitman becoming episodic
Episodic games isn’t a new concept for the games industry, as episodic games have existed for several years, but it has really garnered a lot of attention in recent years due in no small part to Telltale Games, who heavily support episodic gaming with their five to seven episode long story driven games released in monthly or bi-monthly instalments. So, while Telltale has begun pushing the idea of episodic gaming for several years, why has the fact that Square Enix made Hitman an episodic title raised several eyebrows?
Hitman has raised eyebrows because of what it represents to people. To some, it shows that large studios are looking to exploit fans by selling games in chunks, and to others, it looks like studios are trying to find ways to charge more money for the privilege of playing their incomplete games. When it comes to Hitman I feel while both these concerns are valid, I believe the reason why this particular game has caused issues is the simple fact that the game was never initially marketed as an episodic product, and there is also the fact that the game has been in development for a long time and as such people are assuming that the game is pretty much done and Square Enix just want to sell it piecemeal.
Yes, the fact that Hitman was originally marketed as a full product and not as an episodic one has caused what I would consider appropriate anger, but I feel Hitman becoming episodic wasn’t something the developers at IO Interactive wanted to do. This new Hitman has been in some form of development since late 2012, and since then it has hit several stumbling blocks with layoffs and changes in direction. As the game’s developers have stated in the past this latest Hitman title is set to be the biggest Hitman game made to date, so with that in mind, the game is probably taking a long time to develop.
The length of time the game is taking to develop is likely a key reason why the game’s publisher Square Enix pushed to turn the game into an episodic title. Square Enix most likely did this for purely financial reasons as the elongated development time could have been seen as a money sink by the publisher, this loss of money on the project could have been a driving force for Square Enix to make the game episodic in an effort to recuperate money in a timelier manner.
So, the basic conclusion as to why Hitman became an episodic title is most likely Square Enix getting sick of the long development time and the need to recoup the money invested in the title.
From a business perspective, Square Enix’s approach makes sense, but could this be the start of a change in the way Square Enix approaches the development and selling of their games? Well, it is difficult to tell, we know Final Fantasy VII Remake will be an episodic game, this decision did also spark some criticism as it is not yet known how systems such as levelling, item retention etc. will work in the game’s episodic environment. However, FFVII Remake was made episodic for the exact same reason why I believe Hitman became episodic, money and time. FFVII Remake is likely a large undertaking, and in the past Square Enix had stated that a FFVII Remake would be a lengthy and costly endeavour as Final Fantasy XIII’s producer Yoshinori Kitase pointed out to tech digest in 2010, “we’d imagine that that would take as much as three or four times longer than the three and a half years it has taken to put this Final Fantasy [FFXIII] together!” You both worked on Final Fantasy VII, a game very close to my heart! There are always rumours of a possible Final Fantasy VII remake, but would you personally like to see it happen? Do you think a remake is even necessary?”)
So, with two games from Square Enix confirmed to be episodic can we expect them to make it their policy to release games in chunks? Well, it is difficult to tell; Hitman and FFVII Remake could be unique in the sense that they are the only two games they release in chunks or Square Enix might see it as a viable business model and sell all their future games in chunks. In short it really is too early to tell, but if I was to speculate I would say Square Enix selling games in chunks would be a rarity and only occur under extreme circumstances such as lengthy development and projects going far over budget (although games that usually go over budget are cancelled).
The first part of the episodic Hitman will be released on March 11, 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.