Court documents revealed through the FTC’s attempt to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard have revealed that one of Hitman developer IO Interactive’s upcoming games is an Xbox exclusive. Project Dragon is slated for Xbox Series X|S and PC, with the game set to be published by Xbox Game Studios.
This particular breadcrumb of news comes from the courts revealing internal documents that Microsoft produced while considering potential companies to acquire. IO Interactive were on that shortlist, with part of the strategic rationale for attempting such an acquisition being that they were “currently developing Project Dragon with XGS Publishing.” The company’s release timeline notes this game alongside Project 007.
This would seemingly be the “Project Fantasy’ game that IO Interactive announced was in development in February of this year, but the project goes further back, with job listings for Project dragon first appearing in 2021 – as reported by Windows Central. Microsoft would have good knowledge and understanding of what third parties are working on, so with only one fantasy RPG game noted on this list, they’re almost certainly a match.
There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding game exclusivity, heightened by this blockbusting acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. Whether it’s Xbox owners missing out on a lot of Square Enix games, timed exclusivity deals, or the reports that Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda saw them cancelling PlayStation versions of games, it’s putting a lot of gamers’ noses out of joint.
However, it’s worth noting that in the case of Project Dragon, there’s no indication that this has been anything other than an Xbox game, and with Xbox Game Studios publishing, Microsoft will be funding the game’s production.
This game will be a significant change of pace for IO Interactive, regardless of launch platforms. When they announced the project, IO Interactive shared their vision:
For many, this journey is also a deeply personal one that began long before we started making games for a living – and it started with the fantasy genre. From the “Fighting Fantasy” books compelling you to choose your path, alone, against wizards, lizards, and thief kings. To the togetherness, camaraderie, agony, and delight found around the tabletop. For some it meant taking the role of a game master: Part storyteller, part AI opponent, part guide, part villain. For everyone around that table it meant creativity, imagination, building a world together, and a shared goal in creating a great game experience.
Further reading: James Bond, IO Interactive, and what makes a great licensed game
This isn’t the only game that IO Interactive are working on. Having wrapped up the Hitman World of Assassination trilogy in 2021 and then continued to support it for two years of content, the studio is stepping away from their bald, barcoded assassin.
Announced in 2020, IO Interactive is working on a James Bond video game that is sure to tread some similar ground stylistically as the Hitman games, though will also certainly have some stylistic changes made to it. Project Fantasy/Dragon looks to be something else entirely, especially with its focus on online gaming.