IO Interactive head Hannes Seifert has said that he is "personally really sorry" for the confusion caused by Hitman's revised launch plans, but maintains that the episodic approach "absolutely feels right" for the future of the game.
Speaking to VideoGamer.com about the multiple changes made to the game's launch model following its announcement last year, Seifert explained that the studio had done "some soul searching on that one, that's for sure.
"When we started after Absolution, this is when we actually decided we want to go down a route that, well, back then we didn't even call it 'episodic' because the term wasn't really coined at that time... we called it our 'Expanding World of Hitman', and how can we actually make something that becomes bigger and adds content in a reasonable way, where we can also make the game better, and it doesn't take us six years like between Blood Money and Absolution?"
He continued: "So we had this [plan] pretty early, and then of course the market also had to evolve in a certain way for it to make complete sense. After all, [Hitman] is a AAA game, it needs its audience, it needs its target market, and it comes with a lot of expectations after 15 years of games.
"All of these things combined I think made us detour from our original vision a few times, and now we've landed back on it. This detouring caused some of the confusion that I'm personally really sorry for. I think we should have stuck to our guns longer, although it's controversial, but now we've ended up on what absolutely feels right. The game is written in a way that it's episodic, the gameplay itself is that, and our technological platform to allow us to actually make the game better is built for that."
Hitman's launch model has changed multiple times since being announced last summer. Back then, the game was due to launch as a full price $60 title with limited content, but with additional levels to roll out throughout 2016 free of charge.
Then, in response to criticism, IO delayed the game to March to add more launch content and introduce a cheaper 'Intro Pack' for players uncomfortable paying the full $60 upfront.
Then, last month, it revised its plans again, adopting a fully episodic model and stripping the launch content back to a single location and the game's Prologue mission. It also altered the game's pricing and confirmed plans to launch a disc version containing all additional content at the end of 2016.
"For the people, I understand, it should be scrutinised, people should have strong opinions about it," Seifert continued. "But I also want to put out there, people that asked us to delay the game, they can just buy it when the season's over. They will get their fill for $60. Everything that's not temporary live content will be available at that point in time, but we don't want to make people who want to try [it] earlier, making it better and making this experience… why should they wait?"
A closed beta containing the Prologue is due to hit PS4 this Friday and PC next week, with access guaranteed to those who pre-order a digital copy or the Collector's Edition.
The game's free live content, meanwhile, is set to include weekly and monthly Contracts, plus new outfits and weapons. Further Hitman games are planned for release in the future, too, although IO has yet to confirm whether they will follow the same episodic model.
Hitman's first episode arrives on PS4, Xbox One and PC on March 11 and contains the Prologue mission and Paris location. Five further locations, including Italy, Morocco, Thailand, Japan and the USA, are due to roll out in the following months.