At E3 2019, during Microsoft’s Press Briefing, a new survival horror game was revealed. The trailer started with a first-person perspective, as the player used a flashlight exploring what looked like a dilapidated cabin. At this point, many folks (myself included) were probably getting ready to see a Capcom logo appear on the screen at any moment. After all, with Resident Evil experiencing a bit of a renaissance, it would make sense to see a follow-up to number seven. But as the trailer progressed, it became apparent this game was something different. Then, as the familiar insignia came into view, the gaming community found itself reacting to a brand new Blair Witch project. One of the most successful independent films of all time, The Blair Witch Project has its cult classic status cemented forever. But, well, a video game? It’s more likely than you think.
The original Blair Witch Project movie was a surprise indie hit. The film, which was produced almost entirely through the actors themselves holding the cameras and improvising most of the scenes, was made with a budget of roughly $60,000 (in late 90s money). The film went on to gross over $200,000 in box office returns alone, making it a massive success in terms of budget/box office ratio. After that, rights holder Lionsgate attempted to make Blair Witch into a thing, a transmedia intellectual property. That meant spinoffs and sequels. The list of transmedia Blair Witch works includes comic books, a series of young adult novels, two sequel films, and yes, even some video games.
There was actually an entire trilogy of Blair Witch video games, released exclusively for the PC platform in the early 2000s. These games explored the origins of the Blair Witch lore, going all the way back to the origins of the Blair Witch itself by the end of the trilogy. Being lower budget, PC-only survival horror titles, the Blair Witch games didn’t make much of an impact. While there was some interest in the first of the trilogy, by the time the third game rolled around nobody really showed up to play it. Slipping quality and declining interest in Blair Witch as a franchise sealed those games’ fate big time. But the Blair Witch story doesn’t end there.
Lionsgate had a Blair Witch sequel movie produced in 2016, which ignored the extremely flimsy Blair Witch 2. The movie was a modest success, and would have been considered a flop if the budget was higher. But perhaps the sequel did well post-theater release, as Lionsgate seemed to have a continued interest in the IP. A TV series is currently in the works, and now we have this new video game. This game is developed by Bloober Team, a polish developer known best for its Layers of Fear series, followed by cyberpunk thriller Observer. The Layers of Fear games are quite popular within their niche, which lends some credibility to this new Blair Witch project.
While the original Blair Witch video game trilogy tried and failed to have an action element, Bloober Team’s new attempt will be much more about the story. If you look at the reveal trailer on YouTube, Bloober Team calls Blair Witch a “first-person, story-driven psychological horror game based on the cinematic lore of Blair Witch.” The game is set in 1996, which is only a few years before the events of the first movie. The original Blair Witch movie is perhaps most famous for its intense marketing campaign, which really leveraged the early internet to raise questions of the footage’s validity, as well as get potential fans interested in the backstory. If that’s the focus here, instead of trying to compete with Resident Evil, there could be something cool here.