The Dark Pictures Anthology is Already One of the Most Exciting Ideas in Games

By Mark Delaney, 3 months ago
Amid all the noise of Gamescom this past week, you'd be forgiven for having a hard time keeping up with every headline and game announcement. Never known for as many true video game unveilings as E3, there was one new game that immediately grabbed me when it was revealed: Man of Medan. I think Man of Medan instantly became one of the most exciting games in the industry as soon as it was revealed. Here's why.

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Supermassive Moves On

If you haven't played Until Dawn then you sadly missed out on one of the best horror games of the generation. It plays similarly to a Telltale or Quantic Dream game. Players control various characters in cinematic environments, making decisions and heading down several different narrative branches, carving out a unique version of the story for themselves. Until Dawn was a critical hit, and it got that way with relatively little help from Sony, who sent it out in the middle of August a few years ago with a strong sense of abandonment.

Their inaction in promoting Until Dawn was strange. It was a game that was originally made for the PS3 before those builds were scrapped and it was somewhat reimagined for the current generation. By the time it came out, it seemed quite promising, especially as people were really on board for that sort of cinematic video game. Sony's coffers weren't unlimited, so they decided, and even admitted so publicly, that their financial backing would have to go where the returns would be most lucrative and that wasn't toward Until Dawn.

They're still not keen on sharing sales numbers today, so we can't know for sure if Until Dawn was a commercial flop, but critically it was beloved by many. For years, Supermassive had worked as a second-party studio with Sony, not owned by the media giant, but always launching games exclusively on their platform. They have, in fact, never released a game for any consoles outside of the PlayStation family. That changes with Man of Medan. It seems Supermassive fell out of favor with Sony, or maybe they just decided to break away from the single platform side of the business. For whatever reason, their next game, Man of Medan, a horror very much in the vein of Until Dawn, is coming to multiple platforms, and that's a win for everybody.


Bandai Namco Saves the Day

With Supermassive free to bring Man of Medan to other consoles, that means they'd need a third-party publisher, and they found one in Bandai Namco. The single greatest detail of this arrangement, however, can not be understated. Bandai Namco isn't just publishing Man of Medan. They believe in Supermassive so much that they've signed them for a three-game deal. Such a move is rarely seen in video games.

Publishers are typically hesitant to talk sequels and future prospects of franchises because so much can change so fast. If a promising game underperforms, it could mean the closure of the studio or the cancellation of an ongoing franchise. Bandai Namco clearly knows this and has surely operated with such hesitance in the past. But that's not how they're treating Supermassive. Man of Medan is part of the broader anthology series titled The Dark Pictures. The upcoming nautical nightmare is just the first of three horror games the newly multiplatform studio is developing. Such a deal reveals a ton of faith Bandai Namco must have in the team, and that should be applauded on all sides.

For Bandai Namco, it's another sign that they remain committed to diversifying their portfolio with projects the likes of which they've never worked with until recently. Once known mostly for anime games like Naruto and One Piece, they now gamble on narrative-driven and often stranger titles, like Little Nightmares, Get Even, and the upcoming Dontnod adventure, Twin Mirror. Someone at the company with decision-making power must really like creepy atmosphere. The Dark Pictures is the latest in a growing line of games like this.

For Supermassive, to sign a three-game deal away from Sony is quite remarkable all in itself. They've worked closely with them for years. For reasons we may never learn, they've now stepped away from them and have signed up with another publisher who clearly believes in their potential and their pedigree. Maybe Sony does too and this break-up isn't as unfriendly as one may speculate, but whatever got them here, it's clear The Dark Pictures is a real passion project for Supermassive, one with endless potential, and it must feel so rewarding to have the backing of a publisher for not one but three games to help them achieve their vision.

A Horror Universe

Aside from the business-related wins for all involved in this three-game deal, there also exists a great benefit for the actual players of The Dark Pictures. The idea of a gaming anthology series is simply awesome, and something I can't recall anyone else doing in games, ever. Growing up watching The Twilight Zone re-runs and nowadays keeping up with stuff like Black Mirror, I love a good anthology. One-off short stories can often be more enjoyable than prolonged, massive series, and the prospect of these games telling three very different tales is great for horror fans especially, as the genre always seems starved for more content.

As Man of Medan takes place at sea, maybe the second game will happen in an underground bunker or in the future or in a catastrophic blizzard. The possibilities are endless, and it means those who like to play scared will soon have three brand new games, each of them feeling like their own unique entities.

It's not clear how Supermassive arrived at this place, away from Sony, but their brilliant Until Dawn helped pave the way for Bandai Namco to believe in them and commit wholeheartedly to their future. The studio has a chance to cement themselves as a household name in horror. Whatever powers combined to bring The Dark Universe to life, I and surely many other horror fans should be very thankful for what's lurking ahead.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.