During today's Annapurna Interactive showcase, the publisher announced that it's no longer just a publisher. It's developing its first in-house game, based on the Blade Runner franchise, entitled Blade Runner 2033: Labyrinth.
Though we saw a brief teaser trailer today, we don't have too many specific details about what Blade Runner 2033 will entail. We know it takes place in (surprise!) 2033 in a dystopian LA after the Blackout, wedged firmly between the original Blade Runner and the sequel, Blade Runner 2049. We don't know any details about genre or gameplay, but it will supposedly have a strong focus on narrative. And development is being led by Chelsea Hash, who formerly worked on both Solar Ash and What Remains of Edith Finch.
Speaking to Hash ahead of the news, she tells me that it was Annapurna that approched Alcon to get the rights for Blade Runner, saying that the team has a "deep love" for the franchise.
"When I found out about the opportunity to lead a Blade Runner game, it fully knocked me off my proverbial flight plan," Hash says. "I had my hands full working on two projects, and was putting together designs for a new pitch – but I couldn’t pass up this chance. I’ve been watching the original film yearly since I was probably too young, and I remember sneaking away to watch 2049 in the midst of shipping a big project."
Hash says the development team is fairly small, and has been working together for a little over a year building tools and the team itself. Alongside Hash, the group includes developers with experience on games like Hyper Light Drifter, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, We Are OFK, Skylanders, Below and more. In addition, several of them have previously worked together on visuals for live shows and installations with artists like Childish Gambino, Pharrell, Sufjan Stevens and Sofi Tukker. And Hash says we should expect to see at least some of that DNA in Blade Runner 2033.
"Working on Edith Finch was honestly a life-changing experience for me, and it taught me so much about telling stories in the unique language of games," she says. "BR2033 is very much a narrative game, so I can lean on my learnings from Edith Finch often. On the other side, projects like Solar Ash and our work in the interactive music space gave us incredible love of wielding advanced graphics as gameplay tools. Our desire to bend a wide array of disciplines as expressive tools will definitely be present in the final game."
Blade Runner 2033 is largely focused on the film universe, but Hash says it does respect the source material from the novel. She also tells me that she's played the original 1997 Blade Runner game as well, and that the two games have "some shared themes" in addition to the same setting.
But mainly, Hash says the team honed in on the "world, timeline, and perspective of the films". The team dove into the details of the original film's production for inspiration, she says, including its many edits. "I’m really interested in surfacing details of what life is like for the people in the Blade Runner world in 2033, and we’re going to draw out as much of the mythos as we can through those people."
Blade Runner 2033: Labyrinth's release platforms and date remain a mystery for now, but Annapurna promises more details will be revealed soon. In addition, Alcon is currently working on a live-action series for Amazon Prime called Blade Runner 2099.
You can catch up on everything announced at the Annapurna Interactive Showcase with our roundup here.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.