Preorders of IO Interactive's new Hitman game have been cancelled and the title has been transitioned from a full release to an episodic release schedule. Hitman, which had been scheduled for release in March, caused created a stir today when cancellation notices were sent out PS4 gamers who had preordered the title. After a few hours of confusion, IO Interactive updated its blog with clarification:
HITMAN will still launch on March 11th and that initial launch will include the Prologue and the Paris location.
The big change is that the next location, set in Italy, will now release in April and then Morocco will release in May. From there we will keep monthly content updates coming, including the three additional locations we have already announced; Thailand, the US and Japan until the season concludes in Japan later in 2016. The weekly live events and additional planned content will give you plenty to do in the time between location releases.
Most revealing is what the developer has planned for the pricing tiers which, given Square Enix's status as the publisher, may play a role in setting the standard for major titles that release episodically:
The new Intro Pack, which includes Prologue and Paris will be priced at $15. Each subsequent location can be purchased for $10 as an add-on item after you buy the new Intro Pack. If you buy the Intro Pack and want to get into everything the Full Experience offers, you can also choose to buy the Upgrade Pack for $50. This will give you access to all of the content released after March 11th and guarantees you won’t miss any live or bonus content.
Of course you can still buy the Full Experience which is the complete first season, so all the content this year as it’s released, up front for $60 as always promised. Whether you purchase the complete game or buy each episode individually, we want to remind the community that there will be no micro transactions in HITMAN.
There's obviously a ton of reading-between-the-lines to be done, along with comparisons to draw to the looming shadow of Final Fantasy VII Remake's episodic plans. There's also the fact that Square Enix and IO Interactive are dropping the bomb now rather than any closer to March---which will be busy with other news for Square Enix, we're sure--but if this release works well, it will set an encouraging tone for the titles that follow.
The Verge offered this insight:
The new Hitman was originally supposed to launch last December, but IO delayed the game until March in order to "add more to the launch content of the game, more than we had originally planned, and then follow with a tighter frequency of updates, which ultimately will create a better game for everyone." The game is expected to be significantly larger than past Hitman games, with a focus on open-ended, sandbox-style gameplay.
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