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Live service worked for Hitman, but it may not necessarily be IO's future

IO Interactive has gained some valuable insight into running a live service with Hitman.

The new Hitman games represent a great deal of experimentation on the part of developer IO Interactive. The original game experimented with the seasonal release format, making it the studio's first live game.

Hitman 2 and the upcoming Hitman 3 expanded the live service, even if both games abandoned the seasonal release model the reboot introduced.

Ahead of Hitman 3's launch, we spoke with IO Interactive to learn more about what the studio learned from operating a live service element all those years, its approach to zaniness in Hitman 3 and more.

"It could be, but not definitively," communication manager Travis Barbour. "I don’t want to say that’s what we’re going to double down on and that’s it - I think it worked for what we wanted to do for Hitman."

There's also the production side of this argument, in how it allows the team to focus on a core set of mechanics/locations/items while working on other elements in the background.

"I think it’s been a gift of focus - it lets us not try to kitchen sink it, allows us to say this is what it is and isn’t at release, but it will evolve a little bit," executive producer Forest Swartout Large added.

"The gift also of the live service is that it’s allowed us to engage more with the fans and community, to really listen. We can tease things a little bit and see how that goes… but the magic really happens when you release the game and get the feedback, where you can then really see what’s working and what isn’t. Then you get one to two years to really iterate based on live feedback."

Barbour explained that the idea to pace the release of some of the content and deliver certain parts over time was actually the result of the team's experience with Hitman Absolution, which was its last game in the classic style.

"I remember being at the Absolution E3s where we had the game designer at the time saying the way we made Absolution was that it was like a suitcase where you jam everything in, you pack it down - and then you manage to go on holiday, but you can’t fit anything else in the case. If you try to change something, the whole thing explodes and all your clothes go flying everywhere," Barbour recalled.

"So we wanted to change from that learning how we make the game, so that we could add things on or keep it going. We ended up with the live model that we have now, but at the time, that was almost unheard of, especially for a single-player game, and in a game of the scale and getting the attention we got."

Hitman 3 is out January 20 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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