Hitman: Blood Money can be yours in your browser for £3.15, and it doesn’t care how you acquired it. Because that would be hypocrisy of the highest order.
IO’s finest is the most attractive launch title of Square Enix’s Core Online, a Java plugin-powered means of playing selected games from their catalogue in your browser of choice. It’s fuelled by an odd payment system, in which you either choose to sit through ads to earn yourself minutes of game time, or cough up to have ads removed entirely.
Choose the latter for Hitman, for instance, and you can pay $0.49 cents to unlock each mission of the game individually – making this a sort of proto-Spotify for Games – or $4.99 / £3.15 for the game in its entirety.
Squeenix have explained their thinking in an FAQ:-
“We’re very keen to experiment with different business models as we work with new platforms and technologies. We’ve watched with interest how games and other media are monetised elsewhere – TV, social networks, mobile devices – and understand the importance of cost to consumers today.
“We feel that right now some are more open to small investments of time (watching ads) rather than small investments of money (micro-transactions) and we want to offer the choice.”
Which all sounds pleasingly reasonable. For now – though “possibly not always” – there’s even a choice as to what ads you’re exposed to.
Currently only Hitman and Mini Ninjas are available, with Tomb Raider: Underworld, Gyromancer and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light visible on the horizon.
You’ll need to install the Square Enix Secure Launcher plugin to play on IE or Firefox – Chrome’s Native Client conveniently circumvents that – and most likely update Java, as we’ve all done countless times before. But beyond that, system requirements permitting, you’re free to get playing.