Silent Hills just won't seem to die. Shortly after the game was canceled by Konami, petitions started popping up demanding that it be re-instated. Then came the debacle of the Metal Gear Solid V release, which seemed blatantly incomplete and/or half-assed. Then Kojima officially left Konami, Guillermo del Toro tweeted that the cancelation of Silent Hills "breaks his greasy heart", and it all seemed done and buried.
Or was it?
Andrew House (Group CEO of Sony Interactive) announces a partnership with Hideo Kojima.
Within a week of the official announcement that Kojima had left Konami, he was reported to have already set up his own independent Kojima Productions studio, and that he had already partnered with Sony to develop an un-named PS4 exclusive. Geez, that was quick. Kojima has always had a good relationship with Sony. The Metal Gear Solid games were originally PlayStation exclusives, and were definite showcases for those Sony platforms. I mean, when you think of the original PlayStation, what are the first few games that come to mind? Probably Final Fantasy VII. Tomb Raider? Maybe Resident Evil? And definitely Metal Gear Solid. Even when Kojima was initially rumored to be leaving Konami, I had speculated that Sony might make a move to hire him. Contracting him to act as a second-party developer of exclusive content is just as good. I had also speculated at the time that there were three possibilities for Silent Hills to see the light of day:
- Konami could hire Kojima's independent studio to continue development of Silent Hills. This seemed unlikely considering the rocky conclusion to Kojima's employment.
- Kojima could buy the IP rights to Silent Hill (and maybe Metal Gear). This also seemed unlikely considering that both franchises are cash-cows for Konami.
- Lastly, there was the possibility that Kojima Productions could continue the development of what would have been Silent Hills, but without the "Silent Hill" title. Same game; different name.
The partnership with Sony opens up a fourth possibility: Sony could buy or lease the licensing rights to Silent Hill and then contract out development to Kojima Productions. This is the only way that the game could possibly see the light of day and still maintain the "Silent Hill" name. Konami has already expressed its disinterest in continued first-party console game development. It's just too expensive, and the company wants to focus more on its gambling business and mobile games. If Konami wants to continue to see revenue from those IPs, then they are stuck either making smaller in-house games (such as mobile games, pachinko machines, or browser-based games); or they would have to license out the IP to third-party developers. Sony certainly has the buying-power that Kojima, by himself, doesn't have, and could certainly afford to buy those rights, if they so desire.
A trailer for Konami's next Silent Hill game. Not exactly what fans were hoping for...
However, Silent Hill fans probably shouldn't get their hopes up for a triumphant return of their tarnished, yet beloved, franchise. In the video announcing the partnership with Sony, Kojima says that he is "thrilled to embark on creating a new franchise with PlayStation". So this project does not appear to be Silent Hills. At least, not in title...
Kojima is rumored to be collaborating once again with Guillermo Del Toro, which opens up the possibility that the two are going to work on realizing the plans that they had for Silent Hills. During a keynote address at DICE, Kojima and Del Toro stated that they would like to continue to work together. Del Toro even went as far as saying that he would "do whatever the fuck Kojima asks him to". He even made an off-hand comment about famed Japanese horror illustrator Junji Ito. I don't know much bout Junji Ito, but his work is apparently a pretty big deal, and he's also been seen with Kojima. Kojima and Norman Reedus have even been seen together, and it's been rumored that Reedus will be working with Kojima again. All the pieces seem to be fitting into place...
Kojima and Del Toro gave a keynote address at DICE.
Some Silent Hill fanatics have even begun speculating that the entire P.T. and Metal Gear Solid V fiasco was an elaborate conspiracy orchestrated by Kojima in order to get out and away from Konami so that he could work on new things beyond Metal Gear. The theory suggests that Silent Hills was never even approved by Konami, and that Kojima developed and released the P.T. demo (with the attached Silent Hills teaser) in secret, without the knowledge or consent of Konami. It was intended to prove to Konami that Kojima's idea would be well-received by the gaming public, and would be sufficiently marketable to warrant a large production budget. Konami didn't appreciate being thrust into the spotlight and forced to "announce" a game that they had no intention of producing, they put clamps down on Kojima, the two eventually split, and Konami canceled Silent Hills (which was never really in development to begin with). And Kojima knew how it would all play out from the start, and may have even hinted at it all in the P.T. demo. Or so, the conspiracy theory goes...
Fungo and RagnarRox's P.T. conspiracy theory.
A "different kind of horror", in VR?
So, if P.T. / Silent Hills is going to have some kind of resurrection (with a different name) as a PS4 exclusive, then what, exactly, would that game look like? As I've mentioned in previous posts, the actual P.T. demo and the one game trailer that was released show virtually no relation or similarity to Silent Hill. Both the demo and the trailer show only a single hallway in a single building (the demo being a home, and the trailer looking like a school or day care). We don't see any of the Silent Hill city outside of the teaser embedded in the P.T. demo. There's no sign of familiar characters, monsters, locations, or the cult. The second trailer had a brief bit that slightly resembles a Silent Hill Otherworld, but the entire trailer is so surreal and abstract that there's no real sense of a transition going on here.
All this means that the game that was planned, and the material that was shown, does not suffer at all from the loss of the "Silent Hill" name. There's no indication that the game that was planned has to change other than, possibly, some superficial elements, as P.T. never looked like a "Silent Hill" game to begin with.
One big question is whether or not Kojima maintains the rights to use the Fox Engine that he and his studio developed within Konami. This is something that I don't know the answer to. My guess would be no, Kojima would not retain the right to use that engine. So would he and his new studio have to create a whole new engine from scratch? I certainly hope not, as that would likely take years!
Kojima has shown an interest in using VR technology to create "a different kind of horror". Well, it just so happens that Sony has a new PlayStation-branded VR peripheral. They're going to need some kind of killer app to use to market the new tech. What better peripheral-seller could Sony ask for than a resurrection of a hotly-anticipated Kojima / Del Toro collaboration?
Sony is releasing a PlayStation VR peripheral for the PS4, and will need some killer app(s) to market with it.
I have little interest in VR tech, but if Kojima and Del Toro's P.T. game surfaces as a PS VR title, then I would definitely consider buying the device in order to play such a game. Or I'd hope that one of my friends buys one, so that I can play the game on their device. I definitely hope that Kojima and Del Toro get to complete the game that they had envisioned. The P.T. demo showed a lot of promise, and I'd be excited to play the resulting game whether it has the "Silent Hill" name or not. In fact, I might even prefer for it to not have the "Silent Hill" name, as that brings certain expectations and baggage, and I would prefer that Kojima and Del Toro have a fresh slate to work with. Perhaps their new franchise might even replace Silent Hill as my premiere horror franchise.
So while "Silent Hills" may be dead and buried, it looks like something will definitely be emerging from its ashes. And that's exciting!
UPDATE MAY 14, 2016: Kojima Productions game likely to be an "action" title in the vein of Uncharted or The Division
A day or two after I had written and published this blog post, Kojima actually made a statement regarding his first game in collaboration with Sony. Unfortunately, it does not look like this is going to the P.T. / Silent Hills successor that I was hoping for, and there's no hint of any collaboration with Del Toro, Reedus, or Junji Ito. Instead, Kojima implied that the game is going to be an "action" game that will appeal to players of Uncharted or The Division. That's sad. I was starting to get sick of those sorts of games.
Kojima's statements are still highly ambiguous though, so quite frankly, his planned game could still be just about anything. I'll just have to hold out hope that he's making an action game (something that Metal Gear has given him experience with) in order to create (or learn) a game engine and Sony's tech (possibly VR) before tackling the more ambitious Del Toro horror collaboration.
This concept art seems to show a character from Kojima's new IP which inspired the company's new logo.