The future of the 2016 "Hitman" game is now uncertain as IO Interactive is now splitting with Square Enix. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Japanese video game publisher Square Enix has announced that it is now parting ways with IO Interactive, the studio behind the “Hitman” franchise. Square Enix plans to sell IO to interested investors, but if an agreement isn’t reached, the Danish studio might be shut down.

“To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios,” Square Enix said in its statement. “As a result, the Company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO Interactive A/S. a wholly-owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017.”

Square Enix assumed ownership of IO Interactive when it acquired it from Eidos Interactive back in 2009. The Japanese gaming firm was able to publish two major “Hitman” titles with 2014’s “Hitman: Absolution” and 2016’s “Hitman.” Sqaure Enix also published two mobile games with “Hitman: Sniper” and “Hitman: Go,” with the latter even being released for the PC, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. Square Enix has already reported a loss of $42 million for the financial year ending March 31, 2017 due to its decision to let go of IO Interactive and its cease of production of ongoing projects.

“As a result of this the Company started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment,” Square Enix said. “Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interest of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.”

It wasn’t made clear what would exactly happen to IO Interactive and its staff. It’s possible that its employees have now been displaced. The wording of Square Enix’s statement also didn’t clarify whether the potential sale of IO Interactive will include any intellectual properties for any games that it has developed through the years. Of course, interested investors could negotiate to purchase the studio along with all of its IP.

Now that Square Enix is parting ways with IO Interactive, the future of the “Hitman” series is uncertain. It also remains unclear what will now happen to the 2016 “Hitman” game, which has a seasonal release model wherein “episodes” are released to add to the game’s content.

IO and Square have already completed the first season of “Hitman” that included seven episodes. IO stated back in August 2016 that it was planning on releasing two more seasons, according to GameSpot. Aside from the “Hitman” series, IO is also responsible for developing other titles such as “Kane & Lynch: Dead Men” and “Mini Ninjas.”

The news comes as a huge shock for many as last year’s installment to the “Hitman” franchise was generally received well. Although IO Interactive’s future is now in doubt, the studio appears to be still operational. “There’s a lot going on right now and we’ll have more to say at a later point,” IO Interactive said on Twitter. “For now, back to making games.”

As for Square Enix, it is currently working on a new multi-game Marvel project and another entry into the "Tomb Raider" franchise.