In the year 2000, Danish video game developer IO Interactive and publisher Eidos Interactive released Hitman: Codename 47, the first instalment in what would become the hugely popular Hitman game franchise. Focused on a bald assassin named Agent 47, a genetically enhanced human clone who has been trained to kill, the action adventure title saw players take out a variety of targets. Players would be able to use a myriad of unusual methods and disguise to do so.
Instantly noticeable as a result of the barcode on the back of his head, Agent 47 is one of the most well-known and recognisable video game characters around. Likewise, the Hitman series is one of the longest-running in all of videogames and is renowned for how it provides players with tactical thrills.
But how exactly did the Hitman series become so successful? And where is this hugely popular franchise heading next?
Agent 47’s Adventures
In the world of video games, clones are very rarely used for non-nefarious reasons and unfortunately for Agent 47, he is no different. In Codename 47, IO Interactive explores the assassin’s origin story. After Agent 47’s handler at the International Contract Agency (ICA), Diana Burnwood, tasks the agent with murdering the people who made him the trained killer that players are controlling, there’s a huge twist. As it turns out, the person who had hired Agent 47 to take out these targets was Professor Wolfgang Ort-Meyer, who was responsible for the cloning process and aimed to use Agent 47 for his own devices.
The game lays the groundwork for one of the most entertaining action franchises around. In the five subsequent main titles in the Hitman series – Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts, Hitman: Blood Money, Hitman: Absolution and 2016 release Hitman – players have followed Agent 47 on his globetrotting adventures.
Some choice missions include the Showstopper mission from Hitman (2016) which sees Agent 47 pose as a male model, Beldingford Manor from Absolution where Agent 47 enters an eerie British house to take out a member of the aristocracy, and Traditions of the Trade in which players can trap a terrorist in a sauna. These iconic levels have all helped the franchise to sell an estimated eight million copies around the world.
Picture source: Touch Arcade
There is something particularly gripping about a tale of a globetrotting super assassin with a defined look and it’s why the Hitman franchise has been spun-off, with players outside of the core, console-playing audience also taking interest in the IO Interactive series.
Over the years we’ve seen multiple spin-offs in a variety of mediums. This includes video game spin-offs, with Hitman: GO being a turn-based puzzle game for mobile devices that sees Agent 47 progress through different levels, taking on colour-coded enemies who move according to their colours. Another Hitman related spin-off game is the popular online slot, which features several symbols inspired by the hit action series. Players can match icons of Agent 47 himself, as well as items from his armoury such as his gun, his knives and his lethal injection. Another spin-off that is similar to the action in the main series is Hitman: Sniper, a mobile title that just focuses on the first-person, sniper shooting aspect of the assassin’s skillset.
Outside of gaming, meanwhile, there have been multiple Hitman movies. The very first Hitman movie received poor reviews, starring Timothy Olyphant as the titular assassin. Meanwhile, the second Hitman movie fared no better as Rupert Friend’s performance as the bald assassin also failed to captivate audiences, instead continuing a run of poor video game adaptations.
Despite the Hitman series being as well-known as it is, this didn’t stop the series’ publisher Square Enix from choosing to split from IO Interactive and sell off the rights to the Hitman series. IO had made the drastic decision to make the Hitman franchise episodic with ‘seasons’ of content but, although the developer said that sales had made the company “pretty happy,” Square Enix, on the other hand, wasn’t as delighted. The publisher began to seek buyers for IO and the Hitman franchise.
This didn’t mean the end of the franchise, however, as IO Interactive confirmed that it would be going independent and that it had secured the series’ rights from Square Enix. Since then, IO has entered into a publishing deal with Warner Bros. Interactive, which includes the release of Hitman: Definitive Edition, which includes the first season of Hitman (2016) along with its DLC. The deal looks set to bring the game to an even wider audience of gamers.
With the rights to the series firmly in the hands of its creators, the future of the franchise is secure for now. IO Interactive clearly has big plans for Agent 47 and its millions of fans will be looking forward to seeing what’s next.