IO Interactive came into 2021 with ties cut from Square Enix, Warner Bros., and every other previous publisher, and that had been going on for years at this point. However, this year was the year they showed what they could do on their lonesome with Hitman 3. Not only did IO Interactive risk it all with belief in their own pedigree, but they went out of their way to deliver value to the people who stuck with them through it.
Hitman 3 is a masterpiece of sandbox assassin design on its own. Much like the first two games in the trilogy, it sends Agent 47 off to some absolutely gorgeous environments to assassinate some folks that need assassinating. If IO Interactive had just come out with Hitman 3 on its own in 2021, they’d still have a case for being a great developer this year. However, they just kept stacking on the reasons to care about their work. Hitman 3 featured a month-to-month offering of both premium and free content that gave players plenty of reason to come back or even dip their toes into the games for the first time.
Meanwhile, IO Interactive took the polish of Hitman 3 and went back to apply it to all of the current trilogy, not only bringing Hitman 2016 and Hitman 2 up to that same level, but also figuring out a way to smoosh the entire trilogy down into a package under 100GBs on your hard drive. The studio has continued to add value to the Hitman franchise and even goes out of its way to boost the community that has stayed with them along the way, whether through spotlighted community contracts or other activities and initiatives. They even allowed us at Shacknews to make our own Featured Contracts that are in Hitman 3 now, and we couldn’t thank them enough for it.
Putting that aside though, IO Interactive took its independence, cranked out an impeccable game, and supported it thoroughly in 2021. It was a big risk to cut ties with all publishers, but IO Interactive did it and succeeded on belief in its own product. With a James Bond game now on the horizon, we truly can’t wait to see what the studio accomplishes next. All of that and more is why IO Interactive is the Shacknews Best Developer of 2021.