HITMAN was released on March 11th, 2016 to much fanfare. It had recently caught flack for flip-flopping on the model it was going to use for releasing. Originally, it had started as a full game, but changed it’s tune and went to episodic releases every month. It ended up having the tutorial levels and the first true level, Paris. Every month after that, you could purchase the next level in the season, or you could just buy the season pass and get all the levels as they became available. People were upset because they felt like IO Interactive was trying to milk the consumers, ala the (perceived) EA business model. However, IO did it right and here’s why.
One of the biggest problems with new releases now is that when they’re released, most gamers play the daylights out of them and complete the main story. Then the game is ‘done’, for all intents and purposes. There’s no reason to go back to them because you’ve collected everything and done everything in the first month of owning the game. What HITMAN sought to do was keep you coming back for more. Paris was the first big level, but there was such a varied amount of challenges and ways to eliminate them that it kept players playing.
Additionally, by releasing a new level every month players would have to come back. This time, they’d have to complete a new level, complete a new swath of challenges, unlock another facet of the story. But they’d have to keep coming back. Gone were the days of beating the entire game in a week and never touching it again. The story kept just enough behind the curtain to keep you coming back to see what was going to happen next.
But, as with anything, this wasn’t going to last, as Season One was only planned to have six episodes. Enter the Elusive Target.
Elusive Targets are IO’s second answer to keep the player base strong. The Elusive Targets are contracts with a real-time time limit, typically 10 days. After that, they’re gone forever. How they work is that a special target shows up in an existing map. You’re given one chance to eliminate them inside the time period. No retries, no second chances. Once you start the contract, that’s it. Of course, there was backlash.
Many people in the community felt that because the Elusive Targets are on a time limit some players would get screwed out of the opportunity. The team at IO rectified this later by allowing you a second chance to play them, but only on targets you missed or failed. You weren’t allowed a second chance to replay ones you did already and try to improve.
While I believe that the episodic release schedule works, I do feel that Elusive Targets are still not quite there. If I were in charge, I would allow players the ability to replay finished Elusive Targets as much as they wanted. I would also release all the Season One Targets when Season Two comes out.
To add even more replayability, IO gave players the ability to create their own contracts in levels for other players to try and complete. Add to this the new(ish) Patient Zero campaign and the PS4 Exclusive Sarajevo Six campaign, and you’ll see there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back to the game for a long time to come.