The curious case of Konami, ‘PT’ and the Streisand Effect

Is this a dreadful attempt to bury the past or a cunning marketing ploy?

Konami really wants you to forget about Silent Hills. Konami wants you to forget about Silent Hills in that desperate, faintly deranged way your Aunt Debbie wants to forget about her cheating ex and his new girlfriend. There’s a lot of bluster and bullshit at first, but it abruptly descends into an angry soup of charred photographs, watery eyeliner and the snapped remains of what used to be Uncle Mike’s priceless white label collection.

Konami didn’t say much at the time – it rarely does – but as the messy divorce between it and its golden-son developer, Hideo Kojima, became ever more public and ever less dignified, its actions were loud and clear. They were deafening, actually.

We all know the story now, and the frantic scrabble behind the scenes to cut ties with anything and anyone who’d ever worked with Kojima. It was a ruthless move that saw many people lose their livelihoods, and gamers lose PT.

It’s okay – I’m not going to bang on about it again, I promise. But something happened this week and for the life of me, I cannot work out if Konami’s hit a kind of hitherto mythical level of the Streisand Effect – that is, the phenomenon that occurs when attempts to hide or censor something only serves to publicise it further – or if its efforts to purge the world of PT are, in fact, a sly and intentional marketing campaign designed to ensure we never forget the bloody thing.

PT
PT. Credit: Kojima Productions

Briefly, for the uninitiated, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima’s fleeting stint on the company’s flagship horror franchise, Silent Hill, was over before it ever really got going. The game was stealth announced in 2014 by way of a nameless playable teaser – hence the name – and its simple, terrifying premise went on to spawn an entire generation of indie horrors. It was one of the most memorable game announcements ever – yes, ever – and, for a brief while anyway, things looked good for horror fans.

Trouble is, when Kojima parted ways with Konami, the publisher not only reneged on the future of Silent Hills, but it did everything to scorch the Earth of every last trace of that playable teaser. Not only did it block Sony from distributing the free demo to future fans, it also went as far as to prevent players who already had it from re-downloading, should they accidentally delete it or have their PS4 die on them.

From there on, PT has earned something of a cult status. With fans no longer able to download it, PS4s with the demo installed were selling on auction sites for two or even three times the cost of the vanilla hardware.

Consequently, when the PlayStation 5 was announced, a significant subset of the game-playing public had one important question: can I take PT with me when I upgrade to next-gen?

At first, journalists in receipt of early PlayStation 5 kits excitedly relayed that yes, despite its removal from the PS Store half a decade ago, PT was indeed transferable for players looking to upgrade from their PS4s. A pal at GamesRadar even proved it was possible.

In a two-minute teaser of his own, Leon Hurley captured footage of himself transferring the demo from his existing PS4 unit to his new system, documenting the process right up until PT’s familiar icon pops up on his PS5 dashboard. He clicks it, the splash opens, and then it begins. That door swims into focus. He turns to stare at the sinister paper bag that’s turning ominously crimson from the bottom up. And then he walks through the door into the hallway. That hallway.

And then, earlier this week, Konami blocked it.

PT
PT. Credit: Kojima Productions

It’s one thing to prevent fans from downloading the demo of a cancelled game your studio will never complete – it’s quite another, half a decade later, to flick a switch and deny thousands of happy PT owners the chance to transfer it to their new consoles. Someone, somewhere, actively intervened and demanded Sony put a stop to it. Someone, somewhere, still wants whatever Kojima once touched to burn to ashes.

At this point, it feels nothing more than malicious and spiteful, an impulsive mistake made under pressure and in bad faith and I’m so angry about it – because it’s five years later, Konami. You won. You got your way. Silent Hills is dead. And yet you’re still pulling stuff like this.

But every time it does something like this, Konami only kicks PTs corpse out of its shallow grave and exposes it all over again. If it’d just left it to rot in the shadows, dusty and forgotten… well, I wouldn’t be writing this now. Gaming sites the world over wouldn’t be reporting it. In a perverse (but admittedly satisfying) paradox, the more Konami fights to conceal PT, the harsher the spotlight that trains on it. It’s a very real, very tangible example of the Streisand Effect in full force.

Part of me wonders if it’s deliberate; few would still be talking about Silent Hills now if Konami wasn’t fighting so hard to bury it. Like its brilliant stealth reveal all those years ago, maybe this is guerilla marketing at its finest? Who knows. One thing is clear, though – the harder Konami fights to bury PT, the harder we’ll kick back to keep it alive.

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