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The Real Reason Konami Killed P.T.

For a game made up of a single hallway and only one way forward, P.T. had a million little secrets. The game — really just a teaser in name and in essence — has made an indelible mark on the horror genre. It scares people in unexpected ways, haunting players long after they've turned off their screens. P.T. is part haunted-house simulator and part murder mystery. Brave gamers must unravel the horror story behind the game, if they dare, in order to understand exactly what's going on (which is, shall we say, not obvious). 

The short-lived P.T. also became the star of its own personal murder mystery: Konami killed the game before it could be fully realized, for reasons we can only speculate on. The fact that P.T. never became the promised Silent Hills still smarts, because we saw the potential. As director Hideo Kojima said it, Silent Hills was going to be a game that would make you "s*** your pants." Why would Konami pull such a promising game? Why was the teaser released if they never meant to make the full game? What happened to P.T.? What happened with Kojima and Konami? We put on our detective hats to figure out the story behind the death of P.T.

The secret Silent Hill game

Free to download on the PlayStation Store, P.T. by 7780s Studios seemed to be just your average indie horror game. Every other indie studio seems to have developed a horror game — get ready for the cheap jump scares — but P.T. quickly stood out. It wasn't scary so much as deeply, horrifically disturbing. The internet was quick to do its thing and decipher the truth behind this scary good scary game: P.T. stood for playable teaser. Kojima Productions had stealthily unveiled a small snippet of the unannounced Silent Hills

Kojima had initially thought that it would take players a week to figure out that he and co-conspirator Guillermo del Toro were behind the game. He had even toned down the graphics in order to give the game a more indie feel. Once the secret was out, and it was out day one, the gaming world was enraptured with P.T. and excitedly awaiting a full game starring The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus. Earlier in the year, Kojima had mentioned that he would be interested in rebooting the beloved Silent Hill franchise, but that he was a "scared-y cat" when it comes to horror games. Apparently he got over that fear.

P.T. was a casualty of the infamous Kojima/Konami divorce

Kojima and Konami were practically synonymous at the time. Kojima was the master auteur behind one of the company's biggest successes: Metal Gear. Konami had the mastermind's long tenure at the company to thank for their flagship franchise. In the end, even this storied history wasn't enough to keep the two from splitting. Konami saw a future in mobile gaming, and with new CEO Hideki Hayakawa at the helm, Kojima's games were no longer a priority

First there were murmurs of trouble between Konami and its subsidiary, Kojima Productions. The publisher had restricted the studio's access to corporate assets and made them into contractors rather than full time employees. If that wasn't enough of a death knell, Konami went on to not-so-sneakily remove Hideo Kojima's name from the cover of the then-upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5. Yikes. This was all part of a shift in "production structure." The final nail in the coffin seemed to be the fact that, in Kojima's eyes, the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain would wrap up the series, but Konami was hiring for lead developers on future Metal Gear games. Hmm ...

Kojima: the phantom employee

The signs were there: Kojima had seemingly left Konami and the Metal Gear series behind after he was finished developing The Phantom Pain. That said, Konami insisted that Kojima was still a Konami employee. Even after an apparent farewell party, Konami pleaded the fifth and said that he was just on a well-deserved vacation after all the built-up fatigue associated with developing the game. We may have believed that if the whole hullabaloo at The Game Awards hadn't happened. 

MGS5: The Phantom Pain received wide critical acclaim, as was reflected at the 2015 Game Awards, where the game scooped up Best Score/Soundtrack and Best Action/Adventure Game. Kojima Productions was even nominated for Developer of the Year. However, as host and producer Geoff Keighley told us, Kojima was unable to attend because a legal representative from Konami said that he wasn't allowed to. Cue the crowd booing the name of Konami, who insisted that he was still an employee until his contract was up in December.

Silent Hills is dead and done

Even in the face of all this drama, the fate of Silent Hills was unclear. Initially, Konami said that they would "continue to develop the Silent Hill series," but it became apparent that this did not include the story teased in P.T. We learned of the untimely death of Silent Hills not from Konami or from Kojima, but from Guillermo del Toro and Norman Reedus who both expressed their regret to fans. 

Because of these statements, Konami, seemingly grudgingly, confirmed to Polygon that "the embryonic Silent Hills project developed with Guillermo del Toro and featuring the likeness of Norman Reedus will not be continued." We were all disappointed to hear this, especially del Toro, who was shocked by how quickly Konami shut the project down and pulled P.T. from the PlayStation Store.

P.T. pulled

Once the world found out that P.T. was actually a playable teaser for an upcoming reboot of the Silent Hill franchise, complete with horror maestro Guillermo del Toro and action game auteur Hideo Kojima's influence, everyone and their grandma wanted to get a taste of the teaser's unique brand of atmospheric terror. Despite the horrifying experience and the brutal nature of the game's puzzles, P.T. was downloaded over a million times. What we didn't know then was that those downloads would be finite. 

First, Konami warned PlayStation 4 owners that P.T. would no longer be distributed. Even with this heads up, it turned out that once deleted, P.T. was gone for good. Players were unable to re-download the game from their libraries despite having a license to the game. Hold onto your data, because unlike the ghosts in the playable teaser, if you kill P.T., it stays dead and gone forever. This, among other things, began to cement public favor firmly against Konami.

Could P.T. have been a not-so fond farewell?

Kojima and Konami's relationship had started to sour long before P.T.'s release. Kojima was demoted when Hideki Hayakawa rose to the rank of CEO. It was allegedly well known that the higher-ups weren't fans of Kojima. A theory put forward by YouTuber bobvids and others suggests that Kojima was aware of his impending doom, and so P.T. served as a way for Kojima to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. 

According to bobvids, P.T. was a way for Kojima to publicly shame Konami for their apparent betrayal. Considering the timeline of events, it's likely that Kojima knew he wasn't going to be able to complete Silent Hills. He released P.T., complete with a snatch of Silent Hills trailer at the end, without Konami's permission in order to show what could have been. Throughout the game there are little references to Kojima's departure. That talking fetus? Silent Hills before it could be fully realized. The father who killed his family? Konami axing Kojima Productions. Allegedly. Kojima is weird, but undeniably wily, so we honestly wouldn't put it past him to develop such a convoluted way to give Konami the middle finger.

So what about Silent Hill?

Silent Hill is one of the most enduring horror game franchises ever. If Konami is looking to make money, it would follow that they should embrace some of their best known games and pump out some remakes and new titles, right? Not so. Konami is double, tripling down on a "mobile first" strategy. We in the West might not know it, but Konami is making millions with seemingly simplistic mobile games like Dragon Collection, which allegedly collects up to $1 million dollars a day. The same can't be said for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

Not for lack of trying. Metal Gear fans may have noticed that MGS5 featured microtransactions out the wazoo. Kojima had apparently abhorred strategies like these implemented to milk a little more money out of players. Unless Konami is going to make a mobile Silent Hills or a console game riddled with microtransactions, we're unlikely to see a Silent Hill game, as Kojima imagined it, for a while.

Could P.T. be rescued?

Help us, Phil Spencer, you're our only hope! Despite rumors saying otherwise, Microsoft will not be picking up Silent Hills where Konami left off. Besides the fact that Konami has said that it will make Silent Hill games (eventually), Kojima had much closer ties with Sony than Microsoft, as was proven when they gave him all the assets and encouragement needed to produce a game as weird and wonderful as Death Stranding

This rumor spawned from an anonymous source that told Rooster Teeth that Silent Hills was very nearly complete, and considering this, Microsoft moved to purchase the property for billions. Remember when P.T. unceremoniously was scrubbed from the PlayStation Store? That was Sony playing nice with Microsoft, because Silent Hills was on the way to becoming an Xbox exclusive.

Not. Phil Spencer himself in a tweet said that this rumor was utterly unfounded. It was nice to dream for a moment that we might've seen Silent Hills as early as Spring 2016, but like we said, it was only a dream.

Kojima's great big (expensive) games

Hideo Kojima has a considerable pool of celebrity friends. He likes to cast them in his games, too, which we imagine isn't the cheapest of habits. Death Stranding is set to feature famous faces like Mads Mikkelsen and Norman Reedus rendered in stunning detail. We have an inkling that Konami may have thought that Kojima games were getting too expensive. 

According to a translated interview with Metal Gear Solid composer Rika Muranaka, Kojima didn't have a very strong business sense. Because he had a salary rather than a share in the profits, he wasn't very concerned with how much money his games made, just that they were as detailed as possible. Kojima refused to cut corners to save money. Foliage shading? That needs to be top notch. However, Kojima has said that this is a misconception: he always sticks to his budget, even if his games release after a delay or two. Maybe one of the reasons behind his split with Konami is that the company was no longer willing to fund his great big expensive games.

Kojima doesn't want to go where the money is

Ever heard of Fortnite? Yeah, we thought so. Battle royales are what's hot and profitable at the moment. Every other studio seems to be producing one, because that's where the money is. Kojima said it himself at San Diego Comic Con: "The easiest way to make money is to make a game where everyone is on an island trying to shoot each other." He followed this up by saying that he didn't want to follow this trend. Rather, Kojima is an evangelist of the story-driven, single-player AAA game, a genre that might be in its death (stranding) throes

The games industry has turned to the games-as-service model in order to make money, rather than sinking massive budgets into massive endeavors as Kojima is wont to do. Games-as-service values small, continual updates rather than a single release that developers have to hope will recoup their budget and then some. Yes, this means microtransactions, but it also means that the games have a significantly increased longevity. There's a reason why people are still playing Fortnite rather than The Phantom Pain.

Kojima is ... weird

Hideo Kojima is ... one of a kind, we'll say. Taking a stroll through P.T. or a mere glance at what Death Stranding has in store shows us a man with a twisted but brilliant imagination. Konami isn't going to replicate that kind of creative touch any time soon. It wouldn't be fair, or sane, to expect Konami to produce a Silent Hills are weird and wonderful as P.T. had promised without Kojima's leadership. 

Konami has mellowed out without Kojima there to make strange games. Dragon Collection is a popular, but admittedly basic, card-collecting mobile game. Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 isn't going to have any weird babies in bottles or, uh, pee control. Konami is now focusing on totally normal games, and a scroll through the English Konami site shows that its harder to find Kojima content than ever before. We're going to bet that if Silent Hills happens, it won't be as weird as it could have been had Konami kept Kojima.

Horror is hard

Even though horror games might seem profitable when every YouTuber and their grandmother posts jump scare-riddled playthroughs, Silent Hills probably wasn't going to make a lot of cash, especially when compared to the microtransaction-laden mobile titles that Konami loves. Horror games have a smaller audience — 12-year-olds and the faint of heart aren't forking over their cash — and so producing them proves unprofitable. 

Former Senior Level Designer Zach Wilson of the now defunct Visceral Games said in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz: "Survival horror is hard. Horror games in general are expensive to make and hard to sell. People would give us the feedback that they love Dead Space but don't buy it 'cause it's too scary. Kind of works against itself. You can't sell games to a market that wants them to exist but doesn't want to buy them." In short, AAA horror games just don't look appetizing to an industry exectuive. Publishers have become wary of sinking money into any more horror stories. Silent Hills was going to be expensive, and perhaps not worth it to Konami's bottom line.