It has been a rough month for Io Interactive. When its owner Square Enix announced record-high revenues, it also announced that it was divesting itself of IO Interactive and said no more as to its reasons beyond the ambiguous statement that “focusing [its] resources and energies on key franchises and studios.” Square Enix booked a one-time loss of $43 million, over a third of the $117 million the Japanese corporation spent in 2019 to acquire Io’s parent company Eidos.
Once it was clear that Hitman and Io were no longer considered a key franchise and studio, the belt-tightening began. Soon after Square’s announcement, Io announced layoffs. The last time the studio resorted to that measure, half it staff was let go and all projects not related to the 2016 Hitman game were cancelled.
Even so, the studio has received a few lucky breaks. Io is now officially an independent studio, as Square has agreed to allow the company’s management to buy it out. More importantly, Square has agreed to allow Io to keep all rights to the Hitman intellectual property, providing Io with a basic platform to survive as it transitions. The studio continues to update the game with regular Seasons and additional DLC, including one-time Elusive Target packs, so it will have some income in the meantime.
As publishing video games is a complicated task, Io has not stated whether it will publish as well as develop its games. If it decides it prefers to have a publisher, the company is already ahead of most as it has gotten some interest. In a note via Twitter, Gearbox Software’s CEO Randy Pitchford said, “Congrats! Welcome back and good luck. Please reach out when you need publishing support and want a private, not publicly traded partner.”
Gearbox Publishing’s portfolio currently includes Homeworld and Bulletstorm, as well as Borderlands and Battleborn.