As IO Interactive's Hitman 3 brings the latest trilogy to a close, why is the stealth game an Epic exclusive on PC?

17:00, 05 Jan 2021

It's the end of an era as IO Interactive rounds off its World of Assassination trilogy with the upcoming Hitman 3. Following in the footsteps of 2016's Hitman reboot and 2018's Hitman 2, the next chapter tasks Agent 47 with travelling the world and taking out a number of high-profile targets. Whether this is the end of the Hitman name as we know it, or there's more to the stealth series, Hitman 3 marks a major milestone in the franchise's lengthy history.

With Hitman 3's January 2021 release looming closer, the game is making the most of current and next-gen systems by launching on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X and S, Nintendo Switch, Stadia, and Windows PC. However, when it comes to playing on PC, you'll have to pick it up through the Epic Games Store. For the first year after release, Hitman 3 will be an Epic exclusive game, leading many fans to ask what's going on?

Why is Hitman 3 Epic exclusive?

For the first time in Hitman's history, IO Interactive is both developer and publisher. Heading back to the early days of the series and the origins of Hitman: Codename 47 in 2000, Eidos Interactive was the original publisher alongside IO as developer. Square Enix took over for Hitman: Absolution in 2012 and kick-started the latest trilogy with the 2016 reboot. This was followed by Warner Bros. Interactive helming Hitman 2 and IO making the final move this year. 

Discussing why Hitman 3 is an Epic exclusive, IO explained in August, "As an independent studio, our partnership with Epic has given us the freedom to create Hitman 3 exactly as we imagined and self-publish the game to our players directly. It’s also important to us that we honour the time our existing PC players have spent in our previous games.

"With that in mind, we are pleased to confirm that PC players will be able to carry over their current progression and unlocks from Hitman 2 on Steam into Hitman 3 on Epic Games Store". This means IO and Epic have done their best to get fans to leave Steam behind and jump over to Epic Games. 


IO Continued, “It will also be possible for PC players to import locations from the previous two games into Hitman 3 on Epic Games Store. We want to make it a seamless process for our PC players to enjoy Hitman 3 on a different PC platform and continue to enjoy the benefits of our World of Assassination". 

As an added bonus, those who want to play Hitman 3 on PC were encouraged to by being able to download the 2016 game for free. Elsewhere, console players have been promised there's plenty on the way, with IO Interactive working with Sony to offer PSVR support on all three games.


Will Hitman 3 being an Epic exclusive work?

Discussing what's on the way with Hitman 3, Game Director Mattias Engström said it will be much darker than previous entries. This might jar again the usually colourful realms of Fortnite, but remember that the Epic Store also boasts everything from Grand Theft Auto V to Cyberpunk 2077. There's a lot more than just Fortnite players hanging around on the Epic Store, meaning IO making Hitman 3 an Epic exclusive for the first year is a clever move for both sides.


There's been a lot of debate about publishers gaining exclusivity for games. With Microsoft's massive buyout of Bethesda, Xbox CFO Tim Stuart said he hopes Xbox will become the go-to place for titles like Fallout and DOOM, rather than holding all these games hostage as Xbox exclusives. We've seen the same with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's "Zombies Onslaught" mode being a PlayStation exclusive until November 2021. 


Ultimately, it sounds like Epic managed to woo IO Interactive enough to hand over Hitman 3's reins for the final chapter of the current era. Will making Hitman 3 an Epic exclusive pay off the long run, or has it already sniped Agent 47 ahead of the game's release? Watch this space.


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Images via IO Interactive

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