Komami is a brand that is much beloved among gamers past and present. These days, the Japanese developer is probably best-known for the Silent Hill franchise. Over the years, however, it has also brought us classics like Hyper Sports, Solar Assault, Beatmania and Dance Dance.
Over recent months, the gaming press has been rife with rumors that Sony was set to swoop and acquire the horror franchise. The story went that it would develop an all-new game ready to release alongside the PlayStation 5. The latest news that Microsoft is instead lined up to acquire it, alongside a whole host of other Konami games, has therefore caught everybody unawares.
Konami not for sale
The deal is understood to include additional well-known titles from the Konami stable, including Castlevania, Metal Gear and possibly many others. This has led to the inevitable speculation on Reddit that the Japanese developer is going to be acquired lock, stock and barrel by Microsoft.
While it would be unwise to rule anything out entirely in these uncertain times, that seems to be a case of that famous equation 2+2=5 in action. Konami has shifted emphasis over recent years and is now primarily focused on an expanding range of Konami slot games, most of which are based on its classic games. Industry sources suggest that a key aspect of the deal with Microsoft is that the Japanese firm will retain the right to create new slots built around its old titles.
At least over the initial 18 months or so, the relationship is expected to be closer to a partnership. Microsoft is planning to create a new games studio in Japan, and those Konami developers laid off following the sale will most likely find themselves a part of it. There is even the suggestion that the studio will act as a Konami satellite office.
Bringing new life to an old game
Corporate shenanigans are interesting enough as far as they go. But the aspect of this story that should be attracting the most attention is the thought of a new game in the Silent Hill series.
At the risk of causing gamers to check the mirror for gray hairs, it’s worth pointing out that more than 20 years have gone by since Silent Hill first appeared on the scene. When it was released in February 1999, Bill Clinton was president, Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment were scaring the pants off us in The Sixth Sense and TLC were telling us that they definitely wanted No Scrubs.
Since then, eight more games have been released in the main series, as well as a handful of spin-offs. However, the most recent, Silent Hill: Downpour was in the PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 era and has been around for eight years. Subsequent projects have been delayed, shelved or cancelled, including the Silent Hills playable teaser that caused such a stir when it was released at the 2014 Gamescon, but ultimately foundered.
Given the time that has elapsed, most agree that what the franchise needs is a soft reboot. This would give the developers the space to develop new angles and ideas, but without throwing away the deep lore and history that stands the game apart. Given the current world situation, we will still have to wait a while yet. But Silent Hill could well be one of the biggest gaming stories of 2021.