Marketing, right? It plays a critical role in selling us cool new games, but hapless consumers are often taken for a ride by misleading trailers or developer claims about features that are nowhere to be seen in the final product.
Some developers however, take this phenomenon of misinformation and twist it to their advantage.
Enter the Alternate Reality Game (ARG). This style of transmedia storytelling has been used by publishers to great effect over the years, leaving breadcrumbs of information in trailers or tweets for online detectives to find and actively participate in building hype for upcoming games.
One classic example is Portal 2 and its Potato Sack bundle from 2011, in which seemingly random developers updated their games with subtle hints at Valve’s yet unannounced puzzle platform sequel.
Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima is also enthusiastic in toying with audience expectations and a mastery of the video game hype cycle. During production of Metal Gear Solid V, he created a fake studio, Moby Dick, with a series of head-scratching trailers involving phantom whales that all turned out to be the latest in his genre-defining stealth action series.
Is Kojima up to something?
Since the creation and subsequent canning of his well received Silent Hills demo and a highly publicised breakup with publisher Konami, gamers have been clutching at any straws they can in hopes of a revival of the series.
So when the elusive Blue Box Game Studios announced a PS5 exclusive survival horror title called Abandoned, punters were all too ready to put on their tinfoil hats and get to speculating.
Since this is a developing story, I thought it best to simply summarise some of the alleged evidence linking Blue Box, Kojima and Silent Hill, in the hopes that imaginative readers will fall down the same rabbit hole that I have spent the several hours in.
Take everything here with a big grain of salt! Nothing has been announced! Lots of credit goes to the folks at r/TheBlueBoxConspiracy where many of these observations originated. Some of what is mentioned below might already be out of date or debunked at the sub, so go check it out for all the latest.
Unpacking the Blue Box
Blue Box and Abandoned has been a subject of intrigue ever since the release of the game’s trailer in early April. This clue is a little tenuous, but at 0:49 secs the letters P and T can be seen to be covered up by a foreground tree, which some theorists have taken to be hinting at Kojima’s cancelled project.
The studio’s very simple logo is basically a palette swap of the PlayStation Studios logo, even down to an extremely similar font (the S is definitely different).
The studio also announced the game would have a PS5 app that would allow users to run the game’s trailer in real time and uncompressed on the console. No other title has offered this to date, not even first party Sony titles. Why is this little known developer introducing the technology?
However the conspiracy really found its legs on June 16th, when Blue Box Game Studios tweeted a cryptic message stating its upcoming title Abandoned’s real name wasn’t Abandoned. The actual name had the first letter S and last letter L, with a reveal coming soon.
There are more letter based hints with game director Hasan Kahraman having the same initials as Hideo Kojima. Additionally Twitter user Paweł Krzystyniak posted a reply to a Blue Box tweet noting that the name Hasan Kahraman was of Turkish/Arabic origin and bore a striking etymological link to Hideo Kojima when his name is translated.
Layer upon layer upon layer
There have in fact been multiple social media shenanigans from the studio. Studio employees use stock images on their Linkedin profiles. Some have made the link that the twitter handle @BBGameStudios could be seen as a reference to a pivotal character in Kojima’s Death Stranding. And most of the tweets from the studio come at strange hours that equate to 3am in the Netherlands where they are supposedly based.
Do you know who else also has a satellite studio in Amsterdam? Kojima Productions.
The only other game published by the studio, titled The Whisperer, has an icon of a black handprint which is quite similar to that used in Death Stranding as well. The studio’s Youtube channel also features a banner which is a panorama of hills.
Also of note is the involvement of longtime Kojima confidant Geoff Keighley in this whole affair. Keighley’s reputation has won him the opportunity to reveal many games during his career.
When pushed about the links between Blue Box and Kojima in a recent forum thread, Keighley attempted to prove the existence of Kharaman as the developer of Abandoned with a DM asking him to help reveal the game, allegedly from “a while back”.
However, theorists were quick to point out that that message had no date attached, suggesting that it may have been a recent attempt to disguise the trail. Keighley follows the studio on Twitter and is also one of only a handful of people that Blue Box follows.
The hits keep coming with Kojima Studio’s mascot Homo Ludens, a reference to a 1938 Dutch book. The author of said book attended Leiden University, where Blue Box are reportedly based.
A lot of these seemingly unconnected tidbits seem innocuous on their own, but when put together it becomes slightly harder to believe they are all coincidences. Yes, sure, conspiracy stuff. But it’s a game we know Kojima likes to play.
Kojima, despite offering no comment on the theories, recently tweeted about two books with the tweet including the words Silent and Hill. Spooky.
Is there really a Kahraman?
If we further investigate Kahraman himself, we find a PSN account (SneakyWarrior) under his name that has the same number of trophies as featured in a Japanese Silent Hill 4 commercial. Also under Kahraman’s name is a Youtube channel called TwentySeven27, the date that Silent Hills was cancelled.
The aforementioned SneakyWarrior account recently played a game that isn’t available on the PlayStation store. The game uses the monster Siren Head as its thumbnail, a character which was recently referred to by Junji Ito in an article discussing a possible collaboration with Kojima.
Curiously, Hasan Kahraman has an Apple App Store profile with a bunch of low-quality asset flip games under his belt. The only app that’s not a game is called “Go Fit XL,” which sits under the Health and Fitness category. The description of this app says at one point “Personal Training (PT) Programs”.
The above paragraph was already debunked by the time we were ready to post this story, but we’ve kept the reference to point to just how quickly things are moving – and how weird the threads are that people are trying to pull on to see if they can unravel the mystery.
If there’s a mystery at all…
Are we just in too deep?
Could all these events (strands if you will) be mere coincidences? The demented ramblings of a collective virtual consciousness that really really wants to play more Silent Hill?
Probably. Yes. Definitely. For sure.
While it seems that there is something fishy about Blue Box itself, a plausible scenario is that it could be the small studio laying some very clever groundwork to appear to be working on a secret Kojima title, building some buzz for their own title by paying homage to the great one.
If that’s the case, it seems strange for Sony, Kojima or Konami to have not debunked any of the theories yet. Surely they wouldn’t want to be associated with an unrelated project masquerading as a AAA title.
Kojima working on a Silent Hill game would also require himself or Sony having licenced the game from Konami of which there is no record.
The Blue Box saga shows that speculation and hype can be its own reward out there on the web – when focused on something fun, with some not entirely crazy expectations attached. It all adds to the mysterious nature and ultimately, hopefully, the enjoyment of a game.
Or perhaps just some terrible disappointment…
Whatever the case, we’ll hopefully know more on June 22nd when Abandoned’s next trailer is set to be released.