Microsoft said today it would publish Scavenger Studio‘s The Darwin Project as an Xbox One exclusive. It’s a survival title from the Montreal-based game developer, and the idea here is The Hunger Games — but set in the cold of Canada.
Microsoft made the announcement at its press event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. You try to survive in the woods while others are hunting you. It debuted earlier this year at the PAX East event in Boston, and it will debut as a Steam Greenlit PC title in the fall. It takes place in a postapocalyptic landscape in the Northern Canadian Rockies.
As preparation for an impending Ice Age, a new half-science experiment, half-live entertainment project called the Darwin Project launches, and it challenges inmates to survive the cold and fight to the death in a treacherous snow-covered arena.
The game has a low-res, colorful 3D art style. But it’s a serious Darwinian game, offering a competitive multiplayer third-person survival experience. At its core is “the manhunt,” where a player must survive extreme environmental conditions, track opponents, and set traps to win. The seven players will try to outsmart each other using crafting, tracking, hunting, cunning, and other survivalist skills while even negotiating temporary alliances to come out on top at sunrise.
With The Darwin Project, the team is reimagining the battle royal arena-survival sub-genre, adding on elements of a reality show — complete with a “show director” who calls the shots and controls the arena — to create an entirely new competitive experience. In a twist, the show director can control things in the arena, adding a new level of engagement. Players are both predator and prey.
Scavengers Studio includes a diverse mix of video games veterans (Ubisoft, Eidos, etc.), comic book artists, writers, and other creatives from a variety of disciplines. The team shares a philosophy that interactive media is mankind’s next frontier and, as such, seeks to push boundaries and explore uncharted territory.
The Darwin Project keeps in mind the forgotten audience: the spectator — who can influence the outcome of the competition. The game will not feature as much graphic violence as many mature-rated titles. (But it’s not yet rated.)
Built on Epic’s Unreal 4 engine, The Darwin Project features proprietary technology from Scavengers Studio that enables a website to establish a bi-directional communication with the game in real time during the match. That means communication can go both ways for spectators and players.
The company was founded in 2015 by Simon Darveau (Spearhead Games founder and veteran of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise and Eidos) and Amelie Lamarche. Darveau and Lamarche are a couple. They met working together on the 2015 Electronic Sports World Cup for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Both shared the conviction that whoever learns how to harness the power of new interactive and social technologies and develop the expertise to deliver true groundbreaking tools and products will become leaders of the future. The cofounders strongly believe that innovation and innovative games arise out of the connections among different groups of people — creatives, inventors, and innovators from a range of different industries. Scavengers Studio formed with that philosophy in mind.
Similar titles to The Darwin Project include The Culling, H1Z1: King of the Kill, and Ark: Survival of the Fittest. The Canadian government’s Canadian Media Fund and IRAP (Canadian R&D fund) have funded the company. It has raised about $1 million.