Hitman: Live Experience launch thoughts

HITMAN_logo

At E3 IO Interactive announced Hitman, a sequel to 2012’s maligned Hitman Absolution, it has a nice new stylish logo and is back to the big open levels of something like Blood Money (except like much bigger) and according to Video Gamer.com is also really good!

At the Sony conference it was announced as a digital first release which was sort of glossed over and left to comments after from IO Interactive studio head Hannes Seifert (Via Videogamer.com), I’ve lifted a few choice quotes and taken the rest from a newer Q&A they did on the Hitman website:

  1. There will be “no DLC or micro transactions”
  2. “Its fully complete at launch but not finished”
  3. More locations, missions and timed-available targets will be added
  4. Amount of content to be released day 1 has not been decided yet and they are unsure on the delivery frequency of new content
  5. “We can promise you it will be a very big release day one”
  6. New content every week, an event every week and “people can engage every week”

How exactly are you releasing HITMAN?

“We’re doing things a bit differently, as you may have read in our ‘Announcing HITMAN’ blog post. HITMAN will launch on PS4, Xbox One and PC on December 8th this year as a digital download. That’s when the experience will begin. And it’s really important to us that this is understood as a ‘beginning’. 

What we release on December 8th is not the full game. It’s a sizeable chunk of it. Throughout 2016 we’ll release more locations and missions until the story arc is done and finished. All of that content is included in the $60 price. 

We know that the specifics of exactly what is included on December 8th are very important to some of you. We’re finalizing those plans and look forward to sharing them with you. Stay tuned for more details on this.”

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.”

By definition Hitman is unfinished, regardless of whether they want to say it or not.

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.”

What does it all cost? How much do I have to pay to experience everything?

“The entire game will cost you $60 or the regional equivalent.

That $60 includes everything we create in this story arc; from what we release on December 8th through to the end of the story arc in 2016 and all the live events too. There’s no micro-transactions or hidden costs in there. No extra paid DLC on top either. It’s one package, all-in for $60. We want that to be simple and clear and it was important for us to be up-front about that.”

On the other hand, charging people full price for a game sets the expectation that you’re not going to get it in pieces and that it will all be there “digital first” release or not. Improving the game as you’re playing it sounds a lot like its in early access.

You also don’t get a pat on the back for no “microtransactions”, when I pay full a price for a game I don’t expect them to be included regardless of what publishers thing. Imagine if they came out and said “We’re going to sell you an early access game and we’ll be adding micro transactions too” the uproar would be incredible.

They put a lot of their own assumptions and connotations on words like early access and episodic without actually listening to what they’re saying, which is describing them exactly as they are, except they’re denying they’re doing it. Bizarre.

It all seems like it’s not been thought through properly. It’s a AAA game in every sense except for delivery method, it’s a $60 digital first release are attach rates for content of that price really good enough to be doing this? That and they seem unsure of the plan exactly, they should have announced the content available day 1 with the E3 showing, then talked about what will come later, even if they don’t want to specifically commit to the timeframe of that post release content delivery 6 months out.

Hitman Absolution came out 3 years ago in November which is plenty of time to work on this and tell me what I’m getting, given that content creation is surely the bulk of development time, you’d have thought with 5 months to go before launch they would know where they are going to be putting their development resources to get it ready for release

Outside of the confusing communication I have a bit of an issue with foregoing a day 1 retail release to go digital first and charge full price, it seems like a cheap tactic to get the game out and fund further development (without being upfront about it) whilst also getting Hitman fans to stump up for full price with Square/IO getting a bigger cut than if they launched it finished at retail.

I’m disappointed with how its been handled so far, I hope the game is good and IO get their act together by being upfront about content, charging full price at launch seems like a misstep too but if its successful we will have to see if anyone else follows their plan. I don’t have a problem with trying new delivery methods for games but I think they should explain their plans better, perhaps their lack of clarity shows a lack of faith in the idea.

The solution is to just wait for the retail release which I’ll probably end up doing, feels a bit sad to be waiting like that for a franchise I enjoy as much as Hitman but I also am just not sure I trust them to do this digital delivery properly. After Absolution if they don’t manage to do it then I fear for the franchise and IO Interactive but we will have to see what happens in the months ahead.

 


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