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Could there be good news on the horizon for Konami's flagship franchises?

Last week, I started seeing an increasing number of websites, videos, and social media posts reporting on several new rumors regarding the Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania franchises, which currently are owned by Konami. Konami famously destroyed its credibility as a video game publisher a few years ago when its management had a public feud with Hideo Kojima that resulted in Kojima leaving the company, and the cancellation of the much-hyped Silent Hills game that was teased by the viral P.T. demo exclusive to PS4. Konami then went on to release critical and financial duds in Metal Gear: Survive and Contra: Rogue Corps, and further hindered its public perception among fans of its prestigious video game franchises by releasing a glut of slot and pachinko machines based on the IPs.

It seemed that beloved franchises like Metal Gear, Silent Hill, Castlevania, and Contra were doomed to a slow and painful death at the hands of Konami's ineptitude.

Team Silent back for a reboot?

Rumors started surfacing earlier this year that Konami is working on one or two new entries in the Silent Hill franchise. My initial reaction was that Konami had butchered Metal Gear and Contra with shit games over the last two years, so it was Silent Hill's turn to have its corpse dragged through the mud. Castlevania would probably be on deck for next year's execution. I took the rumors of new Silent Hill games as unmitigated bad news, expecting to see something along the lines of Silent Hill: Book of Memories and Metal Gear: Survive. However, over the past couple weeks, new rumors have been spreading that have opened up the far-fetched possibility that a new Silent Hill game might not be disastrous after all.

First up was the rumor that Konami might be inviting some of the creative leads from the original Silent Hill game to design and develop a reboot of the original, or a soft reboot of the series as a whole. It started out with rumors that original creature designer Masahiro Ito would be working on a new Silent Hill game, and has since extended to the inclusion of Keiichiro Toyama and Akira Yamaoka (the original director of Silent Hill, and the series long-time music composer and sound director, respectively). The latest rumors suggest that this trio (and possibly more original Team Silent members) are working on a next-gen reboot of the series.

Not keen on a reboot

Personally, I'm not keen on the idea of a reboot. I've written extensively about my interpretation of the series' lore and logic, which (I'll admit) is often in conflict with popular opinions. I feel like a reboot would only further confound the already-confusing and controversial lore and history of the Silent Hill franchise by retconning the original game. This is especially true if the team feels pressured to conform to popular conceptions (or mis-conceptions) within the fan community. A soft reboot would probably be less offensive, as it would allow the original creators to tie up the series' original concept and move forward with new ideas. At this point, I don't even care if the game is about a cult; I just don't want to see yet another repressed guilt plot!

If a reboot (or new games in the series) is going to happen, I would want such a project to be handled by members of the original team -- but only if they are given a lot of creative freedom. This group worked best when Konami gave them a long leash, as was the case with the first two Silent Hill games. A reboot would likely not allow such a long leash. I'd much rather see them explore the "fear through daylight" concept that might have been the original concept for Silent Hill 5, before that game was canceled and the project transferred to Double Helix and became Silent Hill: Homecoming.

I'm also not keen on the idea of any of Team Silent being subjected to the same abusive employee treatment from Konami that lead Kojima to leave the company. Heck, I'm not keen on anybody being subjected to that level of abuse and mistreatment from their employer.

Crazy Kojima rumors

Kojima Productions

The rumors get even crazier!

I've also been hearing rumors that Kojima Productions might actually have a chance to finish its canceled Silent Hills project. This specific rumor also runs a gamut. Early reporting indicated that Sony was acting as a mediator between Hideo Kojima's studio and Konami in an attempt to revive Silent Hills as a PS5 exclusive.

However, rumors didn't stop there. Later rumors have since surfaced which have suggested that Sony is looking to buy the rights to the Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania franchises. If this happens, Sony would supposedly contract development of the Silent Hill and Metal Gear games out to Kojima Productions, and find another developer for Castlevania (my own editorial idea: keep it in-house with the Santa Monica studio that developed God of War, or outsource it to From Software?).

Not Konami's M.O.

I find both of these Kojima rumors to be highly unlikely, and, in fact, Konami has outright denied the claims that they are selling the Silent Hill or Metal Gear rights. In fact, they also denied that new Silent Hill games were even in the works. Now, a corporate denial doesn't hold any weight with me. Corporations are notorious for denying rumors and speculation and lying about their business decisions to the general public, up until their legal and PR teams are ready to make official announcements. So my disbelief of the Kojima rumors isn't a result of Konami's denial. Rather, I disbelieve these rumors because these rumors go completely against Konami's modus operandi.

In simplest terms, selling (or leasing) the rights to Silent Hill and Metal Gear to Sony, and letting Sony's first or second-party developers handle the projects would be a smart move. Look at the first and second-party games that have come out on Sony's platform in the past few years: God of War, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Like all these games or not, they've all taken bold creative risks, and have shown remarkably high production values (and no obnoxious micro-transactions!).

Konami, however, has not been making smart moves lately. At least not as far as the video game-playing population has been concerned. Quite the opposite actually. Most of their decisions have come off as greedy, self-centered, and short-sighted. Sharing their valuable intellectual properties with a third party seems completely contrary to every decision that they've made in the past few years. Could it be that the reception of Metal Gear Survive, Contra: Rogue Corps, and the various slot and pachinko machines has been so negative that they've been forced to re-evaluate their entire business model? I don't know, seems unlikely to me.

Konami has been more interested in milking its franchises for casino machines than in releasing quality video games.

Furthermore, it seemed as though Kojima and Konami had thoroughly burnt their bridges in their bitter separation. The idea of the two of them working together on anything (let along a revival of the project that may very well have been responsible for the divorce) seems highly unlikely to me. The idea of Sony acting as a mediator between the two parties adds some degree of plausibility to the rumor, but I'm still extremely skeptical.

And even if Sony were to outright buy the rights to the franchises, there is the fact that one of the reasons that Kojima supposedly had a falling-out with Konami is because he was sick of working on Metal Gear Solid games and wanted to try new and different things. So for Sony to buy the rights to Metal Gear and then give the project back to Kojima and his team doesn't seem like a good idea either, and might only serve to push Kojima away from Sony. If Kojima doesn't want to do it, then don't force him to do it. Of course, he could always hand off the project to a smaller team within his production studio (if he has the workforce to do so), so Kojima's lack of desire to personally work on Metal Gear isn't an automatic deal-breaker.

Long story short: I don't expect the rumors of a resurrection of Kojima's Silent Hills to go anywhere. Obviously, I can't say that it won't happen, but I would be very surprised if it does. The idea of original Team Silent members being brought back to do in-house development of a reboot of the Silent Hill series is much less far-fetched.

That being said, even if Kojima does not get the rights to make a Silent Hill game, I would still love to see Kojima and Guillermo Del Torro collaborate to make a new horror IP that would be the spiritual successor to whatever Silent Hills was supposed to be. Please, Hideo, make a horror game.

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