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Blumhouse comes to video games with six different indie horror projects
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Blumhouse comes to video games with six different indie horror projects

A new indie video game publisher made its debut in Los Angeles last week: Blumhouse Games, a division of the horror movie production company co-founded by director Jason Blum in 2000. Unsurprisingly, its specialty will be horror. During the livestreamed Summer Game Fest showcase, Blum and creative lead Louise Blain announced a slate of six experimental horror games, the first of which, Fear the Spotlight, will launch later this year.

Blum described the games label as “going back to our roots, with a focus on indie horror, pushing boundaries and elevating new, original stories”. Like the company’s movies, from Paranormal Activity to M3GAN, its games are all low-budget productions with interesting ideas. The slate includes Project C, a new project from the creators of the brilliant and unusual cine-game Immortality; Grave Seasons, a farming-life game where one of the townspeople is a serial murderer; and Fear the Spotlight, a 90s-styled low-poly horror game about two teenaged girls and a seance gone awry, made by a two-person husband-and-wife team.

Zachary Wood, co-founder and CEO of Blumhouse GamesView image in fullscreen

“It’s a pretty conservative business model,” explains Blumhouse Games’ president Zach Wood (brother of Elijah), who has been working in video games for over 20 years – including eight years at PlayStation during the PS4 era, when the company’s investment in indie games won it huge popularity among players. “We don’t need everything to be a hit. Everybody can make money at a moderate success level, and that’s really important for us, especially given market conditions. We want to make a profit for everybody that we work with. It’s important that our development partners have a sustainable business, and can continue making games.”

Crisol: Theater of Idols, by Vermila Studios, part of Blumhouse Games’ horror slateView image in fullscreen

The launch comes at a time when the relationship between movie and TV studios and video games is closer than ever, thanks to several extremely successful video game adaptations. Both Illumination’s Super Mario Bros movie and HBO’s The Last of Us were made in close collaboration with the game developers that birthed them. But Blumhouse Games is not looking to simply adapt its film IP – its first signings are unique games that aren’t tied to any franchise (though Blum doesn’t rule out games based on Blumhouse’s own stable in future, “if the timing is right”).

“We were looking for an innovative approach to horror, something we haven’t seen before,” said Blain, who joined the company late last year. “There’s no prerequisite, we’re just taking what’s interesting … I’ve been a big lover of Blumhouse for a very long time, and so many of my favourite Blumhouse movies come from limitations – something like Paranormal Activity, smaller projects that were doing cool things. And when you transfer that over to games, it means taking different approaches to scary stories.”

Louise Blain, creative lead at Blumhouse GamesView image in fullscreen

The six games that Blumhouse has signed so far are all very different, from slow-paced creeping narrative games to horrific action games such as Crisol: Theater of Idols, which has you fighting possessed statues of saints in a nightmarish version of Spain. Sleep Awake is described as a psychedelic first-person game: people are disappearing in their sleep, and so all of humanity is caught in a desperate attempt to stay awake. The Simulation, meanwhile, is a fourth-wall-breaking murder mystery set inside a game whose events connect disturbingly to reality.

What connects them all? Blain and Wood agree that a good horror game should be an exploration of the unknown. “And a human exploration,” adds Blain. “I think fear is a very common emotion, and when we experience good horror, we’re experiencing a human story that we can relate to. We as humans all have individual fears, but good horror takes us on an empathetic journey.”

  • This interview took place at Summer Game Fest in Los Angeles. Keza MacDonald’s travel and accommodation expenses were met by Amazon Games.

Source: theguardian.com