|IO Interactive ApS (1998–2000)|
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||16 September 1998|
|Hakan B. Abrak (CEO)|
Number of employees
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.
The company was founded in September 1998 as a joint venture between Reto-Moto, a seven-man development team, and Nordisk Film, a film studio. The company 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.
In 1997, Reto-Moto was founded as a video game developer in Copenhagen.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. The resulting company, IO Interactive, was founded on 16 September 1998, 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. Nordisk Film held a 40.3% stake in the venture, while all other shares were owned by the seven founders through Reto-Moto.
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.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 . They turned to develop for personal computers (PCs), as at the time they were unable to acquire development kits for consoles, and they also had a new-found interest in steady increase of PCs' 3D graphics capabilities.
A part of the development on the game, which would later become Hitman: Codename 47 , was the creation of Glacier, a 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." 's gameplay. Following six months of negotiations, a publishing deal was signed between IO Interactive and Eidos Interactive. Eneroth became executive producer on the project.This led to the first use of advanced ragdoll physics in a video game. 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
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.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. The game was released on 19 November 2000, with reception mixed due to the difficulty of the game.
In October 2001, Eidos Interactive announced Hitman 2: Silent Assassin , a sequel to Codename 47.Following a slight delay in March 2002, it was released in September 2002, this time for Microsoft Windows, as well as PlayStation 2 and Xbox. To more easily overcome the challenge of bringing the game to consoles, IO Interactive grew "considerably" in headcount. 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". The success of Silent Assassin came as a surprise to the team, and was swiftly followed up with by porting the game to GameCube the following year.
In 2003, IO Interactive decided to open a Hungarian offshoot, named IO Interactive Hungary.To properly establish the studio, 50 Hungarian staff were hired and brought to the company's Copenhagen headquarters for a six-month training programme. 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. Instead of fulfilling the Hungarian subsidiary, IO Interactive opted to offer all 50 people jobs at their headquarters, to which most of them agreed. 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. Although a sequel to Freedom Fighters has been anticipated, IO Interactive has been unable to comment on whether such a game was in development.
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. The deal closed on 31 March that year. At the time, IO Interactive was Europe's 10th largest video game developer, with 140 staff members employed at their offices. The sale was primarily negotiated by founding member Flösser.
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.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. Contracts received positive reception. The next game, Hitman: Blood Money , was announced shortly afterwards, in November 2004. Released in April 2006, the game was praised by critics and retrospectively multiply referred to as the best game in the Hitman series.
IO Interactive announced their next game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men , in August 2006. 's sandbox solo stealth gameplay. Released in November 2007, the game gained mixed reviews, wherein some reviewers felt like the game had a disconnect with modern gameplay styles.Unlike their Hitman games, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men played as a linear, cooperative gameplay-focused third-person shooter, as opposed to Hitman
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.Guldbrandsen and Donnell became chief technology officer and chief executive officer, respectively. Six further IO Interactive employees followed to Reto-Moto in December that year. 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.
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.Jørgensen explained that, using Mini Ninjas, the studio wanted to reach a broader demographic in the gaming market.
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. Eidos Interactive was reorganised over the course of 2009 and became known as Square Enix Europe in November that year. Square Enix Europe continued to oversee their previously owned development studios, including IO Interactive. Speaking for IO Interactive, Karsten Lund stated that they studio experienced "no loss of freedom" following the buyout.
A sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, titled Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days , was announced in November 2009,and released in August 2010. Critics found that most elements in the game had deliberately been made "ugly" to better fit into the well-told story of the game.
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.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. In March 2010, 35 of previously 200 employees were let go from the company. Further 30 people were laid off in November that year, supposedly due to the cancellation of a project that was in development for Microsoft.
In May 2011, IO Interactive and Square Enix announced that they would be returning to the Hitman franchise through a new entry, Hitman: Absolution .A spin-off demo, Hitman: Sniper Challenge was released in May 2012. Absolution was released in November that year, and, like Blood Money, saw highly positive reception from critics. 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.
In February 2012, Square Enix opened a new Copenhagen office under the IO Interactive name.The following March, this new office was announced to be Hapti.co, a subsidiary studio focused on mobile games. Hapti.co was sold to Wargaming Mobile, the mobile games division of publisher Wargaming, in September 2017, and was renamed as Wargaming Copenhagen.
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".Square Enix announced that, from that point on, IO Interactive would exclusively focus on the development of new entries in the Hitman franchise. 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. 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. The game was shortly delayed to March 2016, and later announced to be released in an episodic model. 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. Around the same time, Ryan Barnard, previously director of the game The Division , left Massive Entertainment to join IO Interactive. At the time, IO Interactive had 170 employees, and was the largest video game developer in Denmark.
Seifert announced in February 2017 that he had left IO Interactive to return to his home country of Austria to pursue an unannounced project.Hakan B. Abrak, like Seifert formerly production director for the studio, took over his duties, becoming chief executive officer.
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.Several jobs were cut at IO Interactive shortly following that announcement. On 16 June 2017, IO Interactive announced that it had performed a management buyout, as a result of which they became independent. The buyout also included the intellectual property for Hitman and Freedom Fighters, but lacked that of Kane & Lynch and Mini Ninjas. 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. 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.
IO Interactive confirmed shortly after the split that all profits from 2016's Hitman would from that point go directly to the studio.In August that year, the studio confirmed that another Hitman game was in development. 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. In June 2018, IO Interactive announced Hitman 2 . Unlike 2016's Hitman, Hitman 2 does not feature an episodic release format. Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Hitman 2 was released in November that year. On 16 January 2019, IO Interactive opened a subsidiary studio, IOI Malmö, in Malmö, Sweden.
|2000||Hitman: Codename 47||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||Eidos Interactive|
|2002||Hitman 2: Silent Assassin||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|2003||Freedom Fighters||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No||Electronic Arts|
|2004||Hitman: Contracts||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No||Eidos Interactive|
|2006||Hitman: Blood Money||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|2007||Kane & Lynch: Dead Men||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|2009||Mini Ninjas||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Eidos Interactive, Feral Interactive|
|2010||Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||Square Enix|
|2012||Hitman: Absolution||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Square Enix, Feral Interactive|
|2018||Hitman 2||No||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|