“I have no idea why they did it,” says former Hitman dev on Square’s split with Io

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Echo is a stealth-action game in which creepy clones adapt to your playstyle by copying it. It’s also developed by former employees of Io Interactive, the people behind Hitman. We spoke with Echo’s devs about Io’s split with their publishers Square Enix, which had many of us worried about the future of the Hitman franchise.

Interested in their new project? We’ve had a look – check out our Echo gameplay preview.

Martin Emborg, CEO of his new studio Ultra Ultra and game director on Echo, actually worked on last year’s Hitman game before leaving mid-production. “It was so cool to see it come out… I think they nailed it,” he says.

“They seemed to deliver on stuff that was promised since the first game really, but never materialised, and it jived super well with the format that they went with. So you really got this modern Hitman game they had promised before, and after that, the split? No fucking way.”

Hitman’s quality isn’t the only reason for Emborg’s surprise. He also points out that Io were the only studio within Square Enix with hands-on experience of both “an episodic product and a service product,” so it’s even odder for Square to have dropped them in the modern context of live games, especially as the Final Fantasy 7 remake will be delivered in episodes.

“I have no idea why they did it,” Emborg says, “but I have no doubt that Io will land on their feet and do something awesome.”

He was also surprised and delighted that Io will retain the rights to the Hitman IP, and hopes that they “they use the independence to do something crazy; one of the main reasons for leaving was that you felt like you knew what the company would be doing for a long time.”

That’s a bit significant: if you felt that Hitman as a franchise was becoming a little formulaic, Emborg’s implication is that you have Square to thank for that.