The Blue Box Conspiracy

What is Blue Box Game Studios and how did we get here?

The Blue Box Conspiracy
Source: NAG.

If you’ve been on Twitter over the past few weeks and months then you’ve probably heard of Blue Box Game Studios and their upcoming indie horror game, Abandoned.

It’s been facing its fair share of controversy and attention online, with Blue Box heralded as scammers, but it’s still shrouded in mystery and rumours have run rampant. Is the legendary Hideo Kojima involved? Could it be the long-awaited Silent Hill game? Are Blue Box and Abandoned even real?

Unearthing the Past

Let’s start this journey by investigating the history of Blue Box Game Studios, the team that seemingly came out of nowhere. Blue Box is a Dutch game studio, headed by Hasan Kahraman, made up of 10 full-time developers and upwards of 50 freelancers and outsourced studios working on Abandoned. But the start of the Abandoned story is not the start of Blue Box. The studio was founded in 2015 but has yet to release a full game, despite the numerous announced projects.

Flashback to February 2015, when Rewind becomes a registered trademark of Blue Box Game Studios. In March, a Kickstarter is launched which also announced that a playable teaser would be coming shortly. Not long after, the playable teaser was delayed due to ‘technical issues’, and after that, even the Kickstarter was cancelled. This was, according to the studio, because Blue Box had now received ‘private investment’ for their first-person horror project.

Following this investment, the game would be renamed Rewind: Voices of the Past, and the influx of cash allowed the studio to rework aspects of the game. The scope would supposedly expand to such a degree that it was beyond the capabilities of the small studio and the project was halted. A few months later, in September 2015, the project would be revived, but this lasted just a few months as the project was seemingly cancelled completely and all reference to it was removed.

‘Abandoned’ Screenshot. Source: Blue Box Game Studios.

Then, in March 2017, Blue Box announced yet another project, The Whisperer, destined to release that coming June. According to the developers, instead of outright cancelling Rewind, it morphed into The Whisperer. Unlike Rewind, this game would eventually release, only it was a free-to-play mobile game with a £0.99 purchase to turn off ads and was shortly pulled from the store. Once again, Blue Box failed to live up to its promise.

Other early Blue Box projects would include The Lost Tape, another game that would use concepts from Rewind, but was once again cancelled before anything was released. There was also Tales of the Six Swords, a free-to-play mobile game that would actually see the light of day, but once again pulled from the Android Play Store, citing limited file sizes as the factor in its removal.

Then there was The Haunting, inspired by the popular Japanese horror Fatal Frame. This would release on Steam Early Access on 23rd December 2020 and has yet to see the long-promised large update. To add insult to injury, The Haunting was removed from the store and it was announced that development would be completed by an unknown indie studio called CreateQ. It turns out that CreateQ is in fact a small development studio comprised of friends of Blue Box, who will be working on The Haunting as a side project.

In short, Blue Box Game Studios’ history is less than stellar. Multiple projects have been announced very early in development, only to be cancelled or completely reworked. The few games they have released have never met expectations and all were seemingly… abandoned.

‘Abandoned’ Screenshot. Source: Blue Box Game Studios.

While it remains to be seen what happens with these projects, Blue Box head Hasan Kahraman claims “it’s inexperience that’s to blame, not the malice that’s been perceived by some circles.” After all, they are still a very small indie studio and it’s not unheard of for indie studios to announce projects early in hopes to find an audience and support to continue work.

However, it’s worth noting that these mistakes seem to be rearing their heads yet again with Blue Box’s latest project — Abandoned.

Abandoned, The Kojima Plot

With the past of Blue Box accounted for, it’s time to focus on the more recent events in the story, starting with the announcement of Abandoned. Described as a cinematic horror survival shooter set in a massive, detailed open-world environment, Abandoned would be announced on 7th April 2021, as a PlayStation 5 exclusive for launch later in the year. The short teaser trailer provided a very atmospheric glimpse at the upcoming title, and at this point, everything seemed to be completely standard procedure. However, it wasn’t long until rumours began to spread like wildfire.

Very little about the studio or the studio lead, Hasan Kahraman, could be found online yet they had seemingly managed to strike a deal with Sony. But, what if they weren’t so obscure after all? How else would this mysterious game studio appear out of nowhere to make a new PS5 exclusive horror experience? These uncertainties behind the identity of the team inevitably reminded many of the legendary game developer and god of mischief, Hideo Kojima.

Back in 2012, Kojima famously orchestrated a conniving plan to reveal Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This began with ‘Moby Dick Game Studios’ and Joakim Mogren, an identity later revealed to be a creation of Kojima (Joakim is an anagram for Kojima), who unveiled a game called The Phantom Pain, before the reveal of what was really going on. Around 2014, Kojima pulled a similar stunt by releasing the P.T. demo, which would later be discovered to be a ‘playable teaser’ for Silent Hill.

Knowing Kojima’s penchant for trickery and his desire to make a new horror game, along with the relative obscurity of Blue Box, fans quickly took to examining Abandoned and Blue Box Game Studios under a magnifying glass, or perhaps more accurately, while wearing tinfoil hats. For an idea of the type of theories that spread across the industry, some fans noticed that Hasan Kahraman shares initials with Hideo Kojima, and that ‘Hideo’ translated from Japanese into Turkish becomes Kahraman. It was also pointed out that the name of the studio, Blue Box, could be abbreviated to ‘BB’, as in Bridge Baby from Death Stranding. Here lies the epicentre of the rumours of Abandoned and Blue Box secretly being a new Silent Hill headed by Hideo Kojima himself. These rumours became so rampant that Blue Box had to release an official statement on their website about the subject to dispel the rumours.

“We received several emails regarding the Hideo Kojima rumor. We have no association with Hideo Kojima nor do we claim to have any association nor was it our intention to claim such a statement. We are a small group of developers working on a passionate title we wanted to work on for a long time. We have been assisting other studios in the past with their projects and we wanted to work on our very first big project. While it is true that we’ve been working on small projects in the past, we certainly didn’t use that for marketing purposes. We hope this has clarified this matter and hope to see you all in our very first gameplay reveal of Abandoned. — The Team @BLUE BOX Game Studios”.

Yet this statement didn’t break the momentum of the rumour mill. In fact, the rumours would only grow further, particularly following a mysterious Tweet from the studio on 15th June, 2021.

The answer many naturally jumped to was, well, Silent Hill of course. It seemed so obvious, all the links (although tenuous) to Kojima, a name beginning with ‘S’ and ending with ‘L’, how could it not be Silent Hill? Once again, Blue Box had stumbled and issued yet another apology on their Twitter feed, claiming it was “never [their] intention to tease the name as Silent Hill”.

This tease pushed some over the edge. Why would Blue Box, again a studio with a sketchy past that was already surrounded by rumours of Kojima involvement and thus Silent Hill, tease their project in such a way? Many believed that this move was intentional on Blue Box’s behalf, choosing to tease Abandoned in such a provocative manner to gain traction and, somehow, money. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The rumour mill continued to spiral out of control, and Blue Box was now being investigated by people online to uncover their past and substantiate claims of them being ‘scammers’ due to the studio repeatedly cancelling projects or failing to deliver. A Subreddit dedicated to the ‘Blue Box Conspiracy’ sprang up with the sole aim of uncovering the truth behind the studio and the Abandoned project.

Other potential connections would arise over the days following this name tease by Blue Box, such as Kojima himself posting a photo to his Instagram of him holding a box… a blue box. Or a Tweet by Kojima about two books he recently received, which so happened to include the words ‘Silent’ (from the title of the book The Silent Wife) and ‘Hill’ (in the name Joe Hill, the author of Full Throttle, the other book Kojima referred to).

Source: Blue Box Game Studios.

To tangle the conspiracy web even further, the announcement image for the Realtime Experience app (more on this later) featured a man with an eye-patch, which subscribers to the conspiracy interpreted as Metal Gear Solid’s Snake, another link to Kojima.

As you can no doubt see, many of these connections were immense stretches, but at this point fans were looking for any details, no matter how small, to prove that Hideo Kojima was up to something.

These rumours would go on to gain so much traction that the studio had to do something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before — they had to prove they were actually even a real studio, to begin with.

This came in the form of a video from Abandoned director Hasan Kahraman, attempting to disprove many of the rumours and accusations thrown their way. In the video, Kahraman goes on to say the following:

“Hello everyone, this is Hasan Kahraman Just wanted to do a really quick video to show myself, that I’m a real person. And yeah, I’m not really associated with Hideo Kojima, not an actor, not working on Silent Hill. So I just wanted to show you guys my face, and that I’m real. And hopefully we’ll do a [Q&A] very soon — just have to figure out when it will be, and we’ll talk more.”

Thankfully, it appears as though this response from Kahraman and Blue Box has since put an end to most of the wild rumours that have circulated. Some still remain, such as claims that Kahraman acts suspiciously during the short video, with glances off-camera and deep swallows suggesting that he is being disingenuous or once again part of a Kojima plot. Nevertheless, this is likely the last of the Blue Box-Kojima Conspiracy, unless, of course, it turns out Kojima is behind Abandoned.

The Future of Abandoned and Blue Box

Now that the majority of the rumours have died down, Blue Box finally get to breathe and show off what Abandoned really is. This was the idea behind the Realtime Experience app, an app created for PlayStation 5 that would premier a trailer for the game. The Realtime Experience app was originally planned to launch on 22nd June with the ambitious goal of allowing players to see the game running in real-time on their PS5 consoles, rather than a traditional pre-rendered trailer, alongside the playable demo. This ultimately didn’t launch on 22nd June due to ‘technical issues’, and was then rescheduled for 10th August, which again, never happened for the same reason.

When it did eventually go live, however, fans were once again disappointed when they realised that the ‘realtime experience’ part of it was still not ready, with the app simply showing the same teaser that had already been released. This unsurprisingly brought Blue Box’s past projects back into the spotlight, with projects continually being delayed due to supposed technical issues, although Kahraman asserts that this is simply a result of the studio’s inexperience and small size.

Nevertheless, this failure has since brought the project into reality. If this really was an elaborate trick by Kojima then it would have been executed better. The repeated disappointment and fumbles instead reveal a studio that is struggling under the immense and unfair pressure put on them by connections to such big names as Hideo Kojima and Silent Hill. In an interview with IGN, Kahraman stated it was a “big mistake” that was “completely unintentional”.

“We’re small and this is the first time we actually got the world stage.” We don’t have experience with marketing and PR at all. Excuse my language, but it’s really easy to f**k up.”

As I’m writing this, we’re still yet to see anything new come from the Realtime Experience app but Blue Box has claimed that we can expect to see a gameplay reveal in “a few months”.

The logo of the now-infamous Blue Box Game Studios. Source: Tom’s Hardware.

The Blue Box Blunder

Months of conspiracy theories involving Kojima may have come to an end but we’re still left with the host of misguided marketing decisions and an unfinished picture of what indie studio Blue Box hopes to achieve. We still have little idea of what Abandoned is, besides it being first-person and if not a full horror, then at least having horror elements. I suppose only time will tell. These coming months are likely to be quiet as the small team works on getting their product ready to show in proper conditions and making good on their promises. We can only hope it’s worth the wait.

At least, after all this chaos of conspiracy and confusing marketing, we know that Blue Box is indeed a real studio with real people behind it, all working on a project that should hopefully make it to market in the near future.

What do you make of the Blue Box conspiracy? Were you eagerly following along in hopes of a Kojima reveal or patiently waiting for the waves to settle? Either way, I hope you enjoyed this write-up!

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