There’s been a little confusion about how the new Hitman is being released since its big E3 reveal, and today IO Interactive posted a Q&A on the details. They’re quick to stress that it’s neither an episodic game nor an Early Access one, while also explaining exactly how close the game is to being Early Access and episodic. It’s not a bad release plan, honestly, but the Semantics Police might want to have a word with someone over at IO or Square-Enix about setting customer expectations.
They way it works is that Hitman costs $60, but the game won’t be done yet when you buy it. The portion you’ll get is a complete set of chapters, and the $60 price tag will get you the whole game as it gets completed in an episodic fashion, but because each section is finished and polished when released Io isn’t considering the game to be Early Access. Also, unlike something like Life is Strange where each episode is its own transaction leading up to a complete experience when you’ve bought them all, Hitman’s single entry fee nets you the whole experience as it becomes available so, of course, it’s not an episodic game. It’s instead being termed a “live experience”, which Io admits isn’t the most brilliant phrase available to describe what they’re doing.
Fortunately, the Hitman Live Experience includes more than an early game players can access as it’s released episodically. Live events are planned, such as unique targets only available for a few days, which sound like a great way to keep people playing between chapter updates. The line “We’ll also be improving and changing the game constantly whilst you’re playing it.” is a bit more worrying, but that’s standard to any game release so not as bad as it sounds.
With all this live content being portioned out, the other big point IO brought up is whether the game requires online-access or not, and the answer was mostly no. Competing in online leaderboards only works if you’re actually online, of course, as does taking part in live events in the limited time the event is actually running, but once you’ve downloaded the main game content it’s yours to play either on- or offline. In related news, Hitman will have a physical edition to go with the digital distribution, but it comes out later at “some point in 2016”. Whether that means it comes out after the whole game is completed, or if you get the opening chapters and have to download the rest is a mystery, probably to IO as much as us at this point in the decision-making process.
The Hitman release is going to be a bit messy but everything should even out over time. Not labeling it either Early Access or episodic is maybe a little heavy on the semantics but, so long as it plays well and the bits that are released come out in a reasonably bug-free form, not the worst sin a developer can commit. IO Interactive specifically promise “There’s no micro-transactions or hidden costs in there. No extra paid DLC on top either.” and you know what? They could call the release plan Magical Player Love Temporal Enhancement and, with no DLC and microtransactions, it’ll all work out perfectly fine in the end.