Konami's Patchy History May Doom Bloober Team's New Game

Published: July 10, 2021 1:00 PM /


Silent Hill's Pyramid Head lurching through a dark corridor

It seems that the rumors were true. Bloober Team, the indie studio that started out making terrible Bomberman clones before progressing into well-received atmospheric horror games, have managed to negotiate a strategic partnership with publisher Konami to develop games based on their intellectual property. While none of these projects have been officially announced, fans have assumed that a new game has to be a new installment in the Silent Hill series. Bloober Team have officially come out and denied this, but that might change as time goes on. But whatever it is that they're working on, I can't help but find it inevitable that publisher Konami will find a way to ruin it.

It's not exactly a hot take to say that Konami's mismanagement is the stuff of industry legend at this point. It seems that, unless we're talking about Yu-Gi-Oh!, a lot of their business decisions come off as either shortsighted, petty, ill-advised, or just plain confusing. That hasn't changed at all in recent years, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture for those who have worked with them in the past.

First and foremost, that no matter what Bloober Team produces, it will always be compared to what could have been. The now infamous PT, which despite it being erased from storefronts has gone on to influence so much modern horror, was a tantalizing tease of what would come later. Its final moment promoted a major big-budget revival of Silent Hill with the creative powerhouses of Hideo Kojima, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and critically acclaimed horror author Junji Ito behind the helm. But due to a falling out with Kojima coupled with the executives at the company wanting to pivot from big-budget productions to cheaper and more lucrative mobile games and gambling machines, Konami just cancelled the game outright and pressured Kojima and his team to quit. Before we even get an announcement of whatever it is Bloober Team is working on, people are inevitably going to hold it up against all of that lost potential.

A screenshot of the ghost from the Silent Hills teaser, PT
This scared the shit out of me, and it is effectively an urban legend now. Thanks Konami!

That bullheaded tunnel vision has always characterized Konami's business decisions, and it has always been something that has hampered Silent Hill. Despite the highly contentious reception of the Western developed entries in the horror series, if it wasn't for producer Tomm Hulett pushing back against executive demands by Konami, they could have been a lot worse. Speaking on the Voices in the Static podcast, Hulett opened up about how he had to fight tooth and nail to overrule and compromise on ridiculous directions the productions took. For example, Silent Hill: Homecoming was originally planned to be the start of a trilogy with multiple characters from the franchise returning before ending in a bombastic psychic battle for who would control the titular haunted town. This is a series characterized by subtle, moody atmosphere and stars grounded, psychologically scarred individuals fighting for their lives against inhuman monsters. To say this would have been tonal and thematic whiplash hard enough to snap the entire series' neck would be an understatement.

This isn't the only incident either. Silent Hill: Origins was originally supposed to be a dark slapstick comedy, citing the 2000s sitcom Scrubs as an inspiration. For all the good and bad found in these entries, they happened in spite of Konami's influences.

In addition to producing Silent Hill-themed pachislot machines in an act of such tone-deaf brand management fans are enraged at to this day, there were their efforts in making Castlevania appeal to mobile and casual gamers. Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls was released on smart devices in Japan and Canada as a free-to-play game with microtransactions and it made a stir for being a surprisingly solid entry in the series. But a large chunk of the game's monetization revolved around a multiplayer mode that no one had any incentive to play, which means it wasn't making enough cash. But rather than just remove this monetization, cut out the multiplayer, and port it to other platforms, Konami just shut down Grimoire of Souls less than a year later before it could release in other regions.

A burned down building as seen in the game The Medium
There's a metaphor in here somewhere for the project Bloober Team has ahead of themselves.

Both of these incidents are important since it shows two different extremes of Konami's publishing practices. Either Bloober Team will be forced to listen to input for maintaining their contract with the company, leading to a confusing and dreadful game, or they'll divert energy and resources rebuking them, leading to something mediocre. Even taking into account the studio's experience with both major productions such as with The Medium and licensed titles like their Blair Witch game, there's only so much you can prevent.

In fairness, Konami has become more hands-off when it comes to leveraging their IP. The inclusion of Silent Hill content in the competitive horror game Dead By Daylight and working with producer Adi Shankar for the massively popular Castlevania animated series on Netflix has done a great job of keeping both series relevant in the public eye. But given the company's vast history of mismanagement, these feel more like exceptions rather than the norm.

Naturally, I will be the first one to eat crow if Bloober Team's project turns out to be good. While horror games have continued to push the envelope in both scares and complex storytelling, The fact that so many people are hoping it's a new installment in a beloved series like Silent Hill is a testament to how beloved Konami's IP is and how much potential that is there for Bloober Team to use for their own creative ambitions. I just know that no matter what happens, it'll be an uphill battle for them in more ways than one.


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