Lamenting the Loss of ‘Silent Hills’ and ‘P.T.’
Own a PS4 but not "P.T."? Get it now before it disappears, perhaps forever.
Konami let Silent Hill die a long time ago. It hadn't really been on anyone's mind for some time anyway, not before Gamescom last summer. Then Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro's Silent Hills was secretly announced through P.T., which quietly took up the immediate mantle of the most obscenely horrifying game of all time when Sony made it available that day as a free PlayStation Network download for PS4.
Suddenly, all the poor intervening years after development unit Team Silent released their swan song Silent Hill 4: The Room (and then scattered to the winds, probably not by choice) didn't matter. The festering pustule that developed from a succession of lesser developers over the series' catatonic shell was lanced off in an instant. If anyone could bring Silent Hill back from the brink it was Kojima, and players soon learned that this hour-long nauseating genre gut-punch was his proof.
Of course it is. The evolution of Konami's increasingly bizarre public divorce proceedings with Kojima has been less than kind (or rational). As soon as word started going around last month that Metal Gear Solid's eccentric creator would leave after finishing MGSV: The Phantom Pain, I began making my peace with the death of Silent Hills. It was inevitable fallout.
Yes, losing Silent Hills is a travesty. But the real crater left from all this scorched earth—one much easier to simply miss in the massive shadow of Silent Hills' fresh corpse—is that Konami is pulling P.T. from PSN, effective almost immediately.
That's right: On April 29, the most horrifying piece of interactive entertainment ever to grace the medium will be gone. If you own a PS4 and somehow haven't already added it to your collection, stop what you're doing and download it now. Even if you're too scared to do more than just sit in the strange little cement room where the game opens, staring at a hefty door leading into a hallway from hell. Even if you never play it at all.
Because whether you're a fan of Silent Hill or are interested in P.T. or Kojima or even if horror is no longer really relevant to you, this is something that we should be holding on to, however we can. The more copies downloaded, the better. P.T. had already elevated itself beyond its secondary status as a tool of viral marketing—just look at how many game of the year lists it managed to haunt at the end of 2014 if you need convincing. And now, thanks to Konami, it's become a piece of history, worthy of preservation beyond a mess of incoherent Let's Play videos archived on YouTube.
The publisher apparently disagrees. No explanation was given when a small disclaimer popped up on the P.T. site over the weekend saying that distribution of the game would end imminently, even what it meant for Silent Hills was pretty clear. And the reasoning to kill off P.T. is easily justifiable from a strictly corporate standpoint: you can't have promotional material out there in the wild advertising a cancelled product.
The Tokyo Game Show trailer for the now-canceled 'Silent Hills'
The problem is that Konami evidently sees P.T. as only that—promotional material. Yet when Kojima Productions decided to use its Fox Engine to create a self-contained narrative game (which undoubtedly had nothing to do, whatsoever, with what Silent Hills would've been) any value it had as marketing, exclusively, fell away.
In fact, if you hacked off the ending credits that announce Kojima, del Toro, and the Silent Hills name, you would have a perfectly intact bite-sized nightmare inexplicably featuring actor Norman Reedus. And that's fine. And so long as you own it, P.T. can live on as its own autonomous thing.
In the interest of damage control Konami has been quick to tell Silent Hill fans that they're committed to the franchise. Their prepared statement over the death of Silent Hills offered reassurance that they intend to keep producing new titles featuring the town that takes all. As for any further involvement from Kojima or del Toro, talks are stated as being "currently underway."
Still, given Konami's track record with some of their most beloved series, it's hard to put much stock in this. For starters, they've spent the last month wiping out (almost) every mention of Kojima's name (or that of KojiPro, or the Fox Engine) from the games he's worked on. Silent Hill itself has been passed around various Western studios for over a decade now, with little to show for it but surface-level lip-service to the disturbing abstract iconography Team Silent made synonymous with the series in the first place.
Then there was the negligent treatment of the paltry Silent Hill HD Collection. The remaster was so inexcusably broken—it shipped full of bugs, frame rate issues, and a horrible lack of atmospheric fog, the fucking heart of Silent Hill, due to porting from incomplete code—that a lot of fans flat-out refused to support its release.
And let's not get into how the recognizable marketability of Pyramid Head or those, uh, sexy no-face nurses have yielded cheap cash-ins like the Silent Hill gear teenage goths wear, and two absolutely abysmal movies. One of those ended with Pyramid Head heroically playing bodyguard to the film's protagonist. In a word: shit.
I could go on. Koji Igarashi, the long-time designer credited with creating and honing the best elements of Castlevania, seemingly languished in his last few years at Konami before eventually exiting the company in 2014, leaving Spanish developer MercurySteam to take the reins (for a time, anyway) on developing the series' Lords of Shadow games. With LoS 2 a financial failure, there's been no further word on what future Castlevania might have.
Contra, maybe now a niche throwback to the 8- and 16-bit eras (much like its shmuppy spacefaring cousin, Gradius), has had a few attempts at revival too, the most recent being a familiar flaming "C" teaser played during a pre-E3 press conference in 2011. It never amounted to anything.
Finally, while the company will maintain a presence in the London and Tokyo markets, Konami voluntarily took itself off the New York Stock Exchange last week due to low profits, news I only discovered in the midst of writing this piece. In light of all this, the cancellation of Silent Hills doesn't seem like just a temporary setback—it could well end up being the death rattle of a true video game dynasty.
Despite the laundry list of often baffling decisions with their classic properties, Konami's history of ambivalence isn't that surprising. It's a company that's by all appearances run by the kind of rigid internal business philosophy that's prevalent in a lot of conservative Japanese publishers. (Sega and Nintendo are two other good examples. Why can't we just have Generations' classic 2D fat Sonic back?)
Maybe more notably, Konami's gaming division also takes a backseat to pachinko and casino entertainment, among other things, so you can see how some of the internal logic over the past 10 or 15 years might've gone. Silent Hills and P.T. are just the latest casualties.
All this is to say that with this kind of mindset, you can see how snuffing out the existence of P.T. might not necessarily be seen as a big deal—or worthy of consideration in any capacity—to Konami management. But for everyone else it is, or it should be.
More than film or books or television, video games are a medium more often than not saddled with an inexorable sense of disposability, whether it's through the crucially limited lifespan of strictly server-based experiences or the homogenous yearly sequels that plague the most historically profit-heavy sectors of triple-A development. Why should P.T. be any different?
Maybe we should raid the Louvre and piss on the Mona Lisa. Or take a sledgehammer to poor Richard III's remains before he's ever able to enjoy being back in the ground at proper rest. Or go torch a library, or a record shop.
You get the idea. So what if games are just stupid idiotic childish playthings compared to the incongruous, inconceivable weight of history—that doesn't mean they're not part of culture, too. Record-keeping is as important here as anywhere else, otherwise the medium really isn't anything more significant than an endless deluge of playable commercials to be thoughtlessly consumed.
Regardless, it's not like Konami can do much to stop P.T. from propagating after it's pulled. Copies of the game will surface online. Modders will probably figure out how to get it to run either on its native PS4 hardware, or PC. The homegrown community that's dedicated itself to utterly mental conspiracy theories about it is only likely to grow.
Sure, the publisher technically retains property for stuff like this—though really, once something as cultish as P.T. is disseminated into the online sphere, publicly, it arguably belongs more to the fans. And if you're reading this after the fact: You should find a way to play it, somehow.
Konami's future isn't clear, and it's possible that the writing's been on the wall for a long time. I can vividly recall stumbling on their strangely bare booth on the show floor at 2014's E3: a large, nondescript white box and a couple of velvet ropes leading to small flanking showcase interiors on a barren spread of thick carpet. No giant statues or murals, no flashing lights, no game logos, no games. (They decided to hang up a few small MGSV posters on the second day.)
It may be that the space was dreamt up to affect a sort of hip minimalism, made to pop against a sea of garish visual noise. Instead it had an opposite, concerning effect; its hasty-looking plastic shell sagged by measure of E3's carnival aesthetic, giving the impression of something sad, something not quite all there.
What happens next is anyone's guess. But putting aside their history of past mistakes, it's still bittersweet to see what's become of Konami's somewhat soiled legacy. It, like P.T., deserves better.
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