But, in an altogether more accurate way, it… really sort of is.
In a Q&A over on IO’s site, the team is trying to clear up confusion over how the new Hitman title will be launched. The key points the developer is stressing? The game will launch on December 8th but not be completed until 2016. Updates will be delivered later in the form of locations and missions and live events. And they’ll be free. You’ll get the whole thing and all of its updates for one $60 purchase.
Everything else is confusing as balls.
Because while you’ll be able to play it before it’s finished, IO is at pains to distance itself from any kind of early access label, seemingly to avoid the reputation of being “unfinished or unpolished”. From the Q&A:
“Is HITMAN an ‘early access’ game?
No. Early access can often mean something unfinished or unpolished. That’s simply not the approach we’re taking. All of the content we release live to our players will be complete and polished, whether that’s the locations and missions we release on December 8th, the live events or the locations and missions that we will release in 2016. It will always be a polished Hitman experience.”
The team is also, despite plans to launch a “sizeable chunk” of the game on December 8th before later releasing further story content in timed, self-contained downloads, stubbornly refuses to call their game “episodic”. Again, this largely seems to be a reluctance to appear to be selling each new update for cash.
“Is HITMAN episodic now?
We think the word ‘episodic’ sets up the expectation that we will sell individual content drops for individual prices but that’s not something we’re planning to do. That said, there are some episodic elements to the story in the sense that it’s delivered in chunks over time, so experiencing the story will probably feel episodic. But there is also a ton of other content including live events, which have nothing to do with the story. We’ll also be improving and changing the game constantly whilst you’re playing it. Our ambition is to have a stream of content available from December 8th until the story arc is finished.
The thing is, there isn’t really a term to describe what we’re doing. That’s why we’re calling it a ‘live’ experience because it feels like that’s what it is – something that lives, grows and evolves. This question was asked a lot at E3 and if anyone out there comes up with a brilliant term, please get in touch. Seriously.”
There very much is a brilliant term for what IO are doing, and unfortunately for them it’s “episodic”, as much as they try to contort their brains and ours trying to get around it. It’s not a dirty word though, and it’s one the studio needs to embrace: the idea of new open-ended sandbox missions and locations arriving on a timed basis to be digested and ruminated upon in a controlled way is great. Proper watercooler gaming.
Hitman arrives in early access on December 8th.