Hitman will now be released as an digital episodic game with a major live component, Io-Interactive says.

That explains why all pre-orders were refunded earlier this week.

The title was previously a full-price game whose content was to be rolled out over the course of 2016, but players can now simply pay for each episode as they go.

The first episode, which contains the game’s prologue and the Paris location, will launch on March 11 for US$15.

The next location, set in Italy, will now release in April, and then Morocco will release in May.

Both will be US$10, as will three further monthly updates that add Thailand, the US, and Japan to the game.

IO calling it episodic implies that you can buy later episodes without having bought previous ones, but that is yet to be confirmed by the studio.

There is an option to pay US$60 up front for the whole lot – a US$5 saving – or you can wait until the end of the year, when the whole thing releases on disc.

Weekly live events and additional planned content will keep players busy in the time between episodes, said IO.

There will be no microtransactions.

“The last thing we wanted to do is change what we have already said, especially this close to launch, and for that we sincerely apologise,” said IO.

“It’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly and we fully acknowledge that the decision may frustrate some players.

“But it is a shift that we believe will ensure the best possible foundation for this game and the future of Hitman.”

According to IO, the change will allow it to create a living game that will expand and evolve over time.

“The first game is part one of a storyline we see expanding over the release of subsequent games – so we want to make absolutely sure we get things right for what will be a great Hitman experience expanding over the coming years,” it said.

“This first step is going to shape what the games will ultimately become. We will be able to respond much faster to feedback, analyse player behaviour and implement changes on a regular basis that simply wasn’t possible before.

“We’ll be able to craft a long story arc that spans multiple games while at the same time crafting smaller arcs and stories that will find their conclusions within each game. We will get the chance to craft missions and revisit locations in ways that we’ve never been able to do before.”

A beta is set to hit PlayStation 4 on February 12, and PC a week later, but guaranteed access is only available by pre-ordering the full game.

There will also be a US$140 Collector’s Edition available on March 11 that contains a statue, art book, tie and clip set, and game box.

At launch, PlayStation users get an exclusive Contract called “The Director”.