IO Interactive

Last updated

IO Interactive A/S
Formerly
IO Interactive ApS (1998–2000)
Private
Industry Video game industry
Founded16 September 1998;20 years ago (1998-09-16)
Founders
  • Jesper Vorsholt Jørgensen
  • Rasmus Guldberg-Kjær
  • Martin Munk Pollas
  • Karsten Lemann Hvidberg
  • Jacob Andersen
  • Janos Flösser
  • David Guldbrandsen
Headquarters,
Denmark
Key people
Hakan B. Abrak (CEO)
Products
Number of employees
Increase2.svg 170 (2016)
Parent Square Enix Europe (2004–2017)
Subsidiaries IOI Malmö
Website ioi.dk

IO Interactive A/S (often shortened as IOI) is a Danish video game developer based in Copenhagen, best known for creating and developing the Hitman franchise. IO Interactive employs 170 people as of October 2016, and operates a Malmö-based studio, IOI Malmö, since January 2019.

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

Copenhagen Capital of Denmark

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of July 2018, the city has a population of 777,218. It forms the core of the wider urban area of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Copenhagen is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand; another small portion of the city is located on Amager, and it is separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund. The Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road.

Hitman is a stealth video game series developed by the Danish company IO Interactive, previously published by Eidos Interactive and Square Enix. IO Interactive remained a subsidiary of Square Enix until 2017, when Square Enix started seeking sellers for the studio, IO Interactive completed a management buyout, regaining their independent status and retaining the rights for Hitman, in June 2017. The series is available on Microsoft Windows as well as several video game consoles, including the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The franchise also includes two novels and a graphic novel: Hitman: Enemy Within written by William C. Dietz, followed by Hitman: Damnation written by Raymond Benson, as well as a comic prequel Agent 47: Birth Of A Hitman.

Contents

The company was founded in September 1998 as a joint venture between the seven-man development team of Reto-Moto and film studio Nordisk Film. IO Interactive was acquired by publisher Eidos Interactive for GB£23 million in March 2004, which saw itself acquired by Square Enix and renamed as Square Enix Europe in 2009. In May 2017, Square Enix ceased funding for IO Interactive and started seeking a buyer for the studio. IO Interactive performed a management buyout in June 2017, becoming independent and regaining the rights to their Hitman and Freedom Fighters franchises. IO Interactive's most recent game is Hitman 2 , which was released in November 2018.

A joint venture is a business entity created by two or more parties, generally characterized by shared ownership, shared returns and risks, and shared governance. Companies typically pursue joint ventures for one of four reasons: to access a new market, particularly emerging markets; to gain scale efficiencies by combining assets and operations; to share risk for major investments or projects; or to access skills and capabilities.

Reto-Moto

Reto-Moto ApS is a Danish video game developer based in Copenhagen. Founded in 1997, its staff formed IO Interactive as a joint venture in September 1998. Following a decade of inactivity, some founders reformed Reto-Moto in April 2008, and the company developed Heroes & Generals, which was released in September 2016.

Nordisk Film Danish film studio

Nordisk Film A/S is a Danish entertainment company established in 1906 in Copenhagen by filmmaker Ole Olsen. It is the fourth oldest film studio in the world behind the Gaumont Film Company, Pathé, and Titanus, but the oldest continuously active.

History

Background and foundation (1997–1998)

Sign outside IO Interactive's former location at Farvergade 2, Copenhagen IO Interactive sign.jpg
Sign outside IO Interactive's former location at Farvergade 2, Copenhagen

In 1997, Reto-Moto was founded as a video game developer in Copenhagen. [1] Before the studio finished any games, they struck a partnership with Danish film studio Nordisk Film in 1998 that would lead to the creation of a developer jointly owned by the two companies. [2] The resulting company, IO Interactive, was founded on 16 September 1998, [3] with Reto-Moto's seven employees, Jesper Vorsholt Jørgensen, Rasmus Guldberg-Kjær, Martin Munk Pollas, Karsten Lemann Hvidberg, Jacob Andersen, Janos Flösser and David Guldbrandsen, serving as the founders and initial staff of IO Interactive. [4] [5] Nordisk Film and the seven founder each held a 50% stake in the venture. [5] By March 2004, Nordisk Film owned 40.3% in IO Interactive. [4]

Hitman: Codename 47 (1998–2000)

Early on, IO Interactive conceptualised a fantasy massively multiplayer online game (MMO) entitled Rex Dominus, however, Nordisk Film staff asked the development team to cease production on Rex Dominus and "test [themselves]" by developing a "simple shooter" instead. [6] As such, the team opted for a run-and-gun action game, as it took less time to develop compared to an MMO, drawing inspiration from John Woo films, such as Hard Boiled and The Killer . [6] They turned to develop for personal computers (PCs), because they were unable to acquire development kits for consoles, and had also found interest in the steady increase of PCs' 3D graphics capabilities. [6]

A massively multiplayer online game is an online game with large numbers of players, typically from hundreds to thousands, on the same server. MMOs usually feature a huge, persistent open world, although some games differ. These games can be found for most network-capable platforms, including the personal computer, video game console, or smartphones and other mobile devices.

An action game is a video game genre that emphasizes physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction-time. The genre includes a large variety of sub-genres, such as fighting games, beat 'em ups, shooter games and platform games. Some multiplayer online battle arena and real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

John Woo Hong Kong film director, screenwriter and film producer

John Woo SBS is a Chinese-born Hong Kong filmmaker, writer, and actor. He is considered a major influence on the action genre, known for his highly chaotic action sequences, stylized imagery, Mexican standoffs, frequent use of slow motion and allusions to neo-noir, ‘’wuxia’’ and Western cinema.

A part of the development on the game, which would later become Hitman: Codename 47 , was the creation of the Glacier, the studio's proprietary game engine that fit their needs; co-founder Andersen stated: "Since killing was the main theme of the game, we wanted to do something special. [...] Standard 'death animations' just looked too static so some of the coders tried to see if they could use real-time inverse kinematics for the falling bodies. The first versions ran terribly slowly until one of the programmers figured out a way to fake the whole calculation." [6] This led to the first use of advanced ragdoll physics in a video game. [6] This physics system caught the eyes of British publisher Eidos Interactive, and especially staff member Jonas Eneroth, who thought that the system could greatly benefit Codename 47's gameplay. [6] Following six months of negotiations, a publishing deal was signed between IO Interactive and Eidos Interactive. [7] Eneroth became executive producer on the project. [6]

<i>Hitman: Codename 47</i> video game

Hitman: Codename 47 is an action-adventure video game, developed by IO Interactive and published by Eidos Interactive for Microsoft Windows. It is the first installment in the Hitman video game series.

Game engine Software-development environment designed for building video games

A game engine is a software-development environment designed for people to build video games. Developers use game engines to construct games for consoles, mobile devices, and personal computers. The core functionality typically provided by a game engine includes a rendering engine ("renderer") for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics engine or collision detection, sound, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence, networking, streaming, memory management, threading, localization support, scene graph, and may include video support for cinematics. Implementers often economize on the process of game development by reusing/adapting, in large part, the same game engine to produce different games or to aid in porting games to multiple platforms.

Inverse kinematics

Inverse kinematics is the mathematical process of recovering the movements of an object in the world from some other data, such as a film of those movements, or a film of the world as seen by a camera which is itself making those movements. This is useful in robotics and in film animation.

As executive producer, Eneroth encouraged the development team to stray away from the run-and-gun gameplay, and instead focus on a "methodical experience", including dragging dead bodies around the scene to create tension. [6] He had previously worked on Deus Ex and Thief: The Dark Project , which had heavily exposed him to the stealth game mechanics he wished to see in Codename 47. [6] The game was released on 19 November 2000, [8] with reception mixed due to the difficulty of the game. [6]

<i>Deus Ex</i> (video game) 2000 video game

Deus Ex is a 2000 action role-playing video game developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive. Set in a cyberpunk-themed dystopian world in the year 2052, the story follows JC Denton, an agent of the fictional agency United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO), who is given superhuman abilities by nanotechnology, as he sets out to combat hostile forces in a world ravaged by inequality and a deadly plague. His missions entangle him in a conspiracy that brings him into conflict with the Triads, Majestic 12, and the Illuminati.

<i>Thief: The Dark Project</i> video game

Thief: The Dark Project is a 1998 first-person stealth video game developed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Eidos Interactive. Set in a medieval steampunk metropolis called the City, players take on the role of Garrett, a master thief trained by a secret society who, while carrying out a series of robberies, becomes embroiled in a complex plot that ultimately sees him attempting to prevent a great power from unleashing chaos on the world.

A stealth game is a type of video game in which the player primarily uses stealth to avoid or overcome antagonists. Games in the genre typically allow the player to remain undetected by hiding, sneaking, or using disguises. Some games allow the player to choose between a stealthy approach or directly attacking antagonists, but rewarding the player for greater use of stealth. The genre has employed espionage, counter-terrorism, and rogue themes, with protagonists who are special forces operatives, spies, thieves, ninjas, or assassins. Some games have also combined stealth elements with other genres, such as first-person shooters and platformers.

Further ventures (2000–2004)

In October 2001, Eidos Interactive announced Hitman 2: Silent Assassin , a sequel to Codename 47. [9] Following a slight delay in March 2002, [10] it was released in September 2002, this time for Microsoft Windows, as well as PlayStation 2 and Xbox. [11] To more easily overcome the challenge of bringing the game to consoles, IO Interactive grew "considerably" in headcount. [7] The game was received well by critics; according to Greg Kasavin in his review for GameSpot , "Hitman 2 fixes virtually all of the problems of its predecessor". [12] The success of Silent Assassin came as a surprise to the team, [7] and was swiftly followed up with by porting the game to GameCube the following year. [13]

In 2003, IO Interactive decided to open a Hungarian offshoot, named IO Interactive Hungary. [5] To properly establish the studio, 50 Hungarian staff were hired and brought to the company's Copenhagen headquarters for a six-month training programme. [5] However, after the training had been finished, IO Interactive realised that there were 50 people with talent but no leadership that could guide them when in Hungary. [5] Instead of fulfilling the Hungarian subsidiary, IO Interactive opted to offer all 50 people jobs at their headquarters, to which most of them agreed. [5] In October that year, Electronic Arts released Freedom Fighters , an IO Interactive-developed third-person shooter which was previously announced as Freedom: The Battle for Liberty Island in May 2002. [14] [15] Although a sequel to Freedom Fighters has been anticipated, IO Interactive has been unable to comment on whether such a game was in development. [16]

Acquisition by Eidos Interactive, further Hitman releases (2004–2006)

On 3 March 2004, Eidos Interactive announced that they were acquiring IO Interactive for GB£23 million in cash and stock, plus another GB£5 million linked to the studio's performance in the following four years. [17] [18] The deal closed on 31 March that year. [4] At the time, IO Interactive was Europe's 10th largest video game developer, with 140 staff members employed at their offices. [4] The sale was primarily negotiated by founding member Flösser. [19]

The first game to release under Eidos Interactive's management was Hitman: Contracts , the third game in the Hitman franchise, which was announced and released in April that year. [20] The game was developed in about nine months, from concept stage to console submission, but was under the influence of "crunch time" throughout the entire development. [21] Contracts received positive reception. [22] [23] The next game, Hitman: Blood Money , was announced shortly afterwards, in November 2004. [24] Released in April 2006, [25] the game was praised by critics and retrospectively multiply referred to as the best game in the Hitman series. [26] [27]

Other games (2006–2010)

IO Interactive announced their next game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men , in August 2006. [28] Unlike their Hitman games, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men played as a linear, cooperative gameplay-focused third-person shooter, as opposed to Hitman's sandbox solo stealth gameplay. [29] Released in November 2007, [30] the game gained mixed reviews, wherein some reviewers felt like the game had a disconnect with modern gameplay styles. [31]

On 11 April 2008, four of IO Interactive's co-founders, Vorsholt Jørgensen, Pollas, Andersen and Guldbrandsen, announced that they had, together with former Eidos Interactive executive producer Neil Donnell, reformed Reto-Moto as an active developer. [32] Guldbrandsen and Donnell became chief technology officer and chief executive officer, respectively. [33] Six further IO Interactive employees followed to Reto-Moto in December that year. [34] Co-founder and at the time managing director Flösser left the company on 16 April 2008, and was succeeded by Niels Jørgensen, who had joined the company in 2002. [35]

In January 2009, Eidos Interactive announced IO Interactive-developed Mini Ninjas , a family-friendly game, as opposed to all of the studio's previous titles. [36] Jørgensen explained that, using Mini Ninjas, the studio wanted to reach a broader demographic in the gaming market. [5]

Shortly after the announcement of Mini Ninjas, in April 2009, Eidos Interactive was acquired by Japanese video game conglomerate Square Enix for GB£84.3 million. [37] Eidos Interactive was reorganised over the course of 2009 and became known as Square Enix Europe in November that year. [38] Square Enix Europe continued to oversee their previously owned development studios, including IO Interactive. [39] Speaking for IO Interactive, Karsten Lund stated that the studio experienced "no loss of freedom" following the buyout. [40]

A sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, titled Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days , was announced in November 2009, [41] and released in August 2010. [42] Critics found that most elements in the game had deliberately been made "ugly" to better fit into the well-told story of the game. [43]

In a November 2009 interview with gaming website Gamasutra , Jørgensen revealed that, due to the high costs associated with living in Scandinavia, much of the company's graphic department had been outsourced to Shanghai. [5] The Chinese office had been set up by two Danish representatives from IO Interactive, with one Dane permanently residing in Shanghai to look over the outsourcing progress. [5] In March 2010, 35 of previously 200 employees were let go from the company. [44] [45] Further 30 people were laid off in November that year, supposedly due to the cancellation of a project that was in development for Microsoft. [46]

Return to Hitman (2011–2016)

In May 2011, IO Interactive and Square Enix announced that they would be returning to the Hitman franchise through a new entry, Hitman: Absolution . [47] [48] A spin-off demo, Hitman: Sniper Challenge , was released in May 2012. [49] Absolution was released in November that year, [50] and, like Blood Money, saw highly positive reception from critics. [51] However, many fans of the series, including the developers at IO Interactive, felt like Absolution was leaning too far into the mainstream, as a result of which they were losing their core player base. [52]

In February 2012, Square Enix opened a new Copenhagen office under the IO Interactive name. [53] The following March, this new office was announced to be Hapti.co, a subsidiary studio focused on mobile games. [54] Hapti.co was sold to Wargaming Mobile, the mobile games division of publisher Wargaming, in September 2017, and was renamed as Wargaming Copenhagen. [55]

In June 2013, 70 staff members, half of IO Interactive's workforce at the time, were made redundant due to "internal adjustments to face the challenges of today's market". [56] [57] Square Enix announced that, from that point on, IO Interactive would exclusively focus on the development of new entries in the Hitman franchise. [58] At the same time, Hannes Seifert, who for the past three years had held the position of production director at IO Interactive, took over the company's management as studio head. [59] At a June 2015 press conference, Sony announced that a new game in the Hitman series, simply titled Hitman , had been slated for a December 2015 release. [60] The game was shortly delayed to March 2016, [61] and later announced to be released in an episodic model. [62] As such, starting in March 2016, the first season for the game was released through six episodes, the last of which was released in October 2016. [63] Around the same time, Ryan Barnard, previously director of the game The Division , left Massive Entertainment to join IO Interactive. [64] At the time, IO Interactive had 170 employees, [65] and was the largest video game developer in Denmark. [66]

Management buyout, Hitman 2 (2017–present)

Seifert announced in February 2017 that he had left IO Interactive to return to his home country of Austria to pursue an unannounced project. [67] Hakan B. Abrak, also formerly production director for the studio, took over his duties, becoming chief executive officer. [68] [69]

In May 2017, Square Enix announced that they had withdrawn funding from IO Interactive and would begin negotiating with potential investors that would want to purchase the studio. [70] Several jobs were cut at IO Interactive shortly following that announcement. [71] [72] On 16 June 2017, IO Interactive announced that it had performed a management buyout, as a result of which they became independent. [73] [74] The buyout also included the intellectual property for Hitman and Freedom Fighters, but lacked that of Kane & Lynch and Mini Ninjas. [75] [76] [77] Yosuke Matsuda, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix at the time, stated that the company's decision to divest itself of IO Interactive, alongside Hitman, was made because they felt like the series needed to go on, but would be in better hands with another partner or with IO Interactive itself. [78] [79] IO Interactive's associate director, Eskil Mohl, said that, when Square Enix decided to withdraw from the studio, they were already working on Hitman 2, and the job cuts were a necessary step to make sure that the studio would remain viable without Square Enix's backing; Mohl felt that this helped harden the studio to make Hitman 2 a stronger game. [80]

IO Interactive confirmed shortly after the split that all profits from 2016's Hitman would from that point go directly to the studio. [81] In August that year, the studio confirmed that another Hitman game was in development. [82] In April 2018, IO Interactive partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to distribute a Definitive Edition of 2016's Hitman, which was released in the following month. [83] [84] In June 2018, IO Interactive announced Hitman 2 . [85] Unlike 2016's Hitman, Hitman 2 does not feature an episodic release format. [86] Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Hitman 2 was released in November that year. [87] On 16 January 2019, IO Interactive opened a subsidiary studio, IOI Malmö, in Malmö, Sweden. [88]

Games developed

YearTitlePlatform(s)Publisher(s)
GCN PS2 PS3 PS4 Wii Win Linux Mac Xbox X360 XONE
2000 Hitman: Codename 47 NoNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo Eidos Interactive
2002 Hitman 2: Silent Assassin YesYesNoNoNoYesNoNoYesNoNo
2003 Freedom Fighters YesYesNoNoNoYesNoNoYesNoNo Electronic Arts
2004 Hitman: Contracts NoYesNoNoNoYesNoNoYesNoNoEidos Interactive
2006 Hitman: Blood Money NoYesNoNoNoYesNoNoYesYesNo
2007 Kane & Lynch: Dead Men NoNoYesNoNoYesNoNoNoYesNo
2009 Mini Ninjas NoNoYesNoYesYesNoYesNoYesNoEidos Interactive, Feral Interactive
2010 Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days NoNoYesNoNoYesNoNoNoYesNo Square Enix
2012 Hitman: Absolution NoNoYesNoNoYesNoYesNoYesNoSquare Enix, Feral Interactive
2016 Hitman NoNoNoYesNoYesYesYesNoNoYes
2018 Hitman 2 NoNoNoYesNoYesNoNoNoNoYes Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Cancelled games

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