The four time Major Championship winner arrived at Abu Dhabi Golf Club having finished second at this event four times, with a further three third place finishes from his ten appearances.
For a long time it looked like it may be 11th time lucky as McIlroy opened with a 64, took a one shot lead into the final round and extended that to two after birdies on the second and third.
Hatton was relentless, however, and while McIlroy signed for a closing 72, the Englishman stormed to a 66 and a four shot victory, leaving the former World Number One waiting for a first Rolex Series win after another top three in Abu Dhabi.
"I don't feel like I played great this week," said McIlroy. "Felt like I was managing my game a bit. Nice to get a competitive week under my belt and see where my game is and what I need to do to keep on improving.
"I thought for the most part of the week, my short game and my putting was good. I scrambled well. Had some pretty good approach shots, especially last night coming down the last few holes.
"I thought there was parts of rounds where I got the driver going, even the last few holes this evening there I got the driver going a little bit.
"But still, sometimes I'll have a few holes where it's like that and there's a few holes where it sort of gets away from me. So a little more consistency and being able to replicate the good ones hole after hole and then day after day until you sort of put four rounds together."