by Nick Robinson Konami is trying really, really hard to make you forget that P.T. ever existed. That plan is backfiring. In the wake of Silent Hills’ cancellation, Konami has done virtually everything in its power to scrub P.T.’s existence from the face of the planet. First, it quietly revealed plans to remove the game for download. After that, the […]
by Nick Robinson
Konami is trying really, really hard to make you forget that P.T. ever existed. That plan is backfiring.
In the wake of Silent Hills’ cancellation, Konami has done virtually everything in its power to scrub P.T.’s existence from the face of the planet. First, it quietly revealed plans to remove the game for download. After that, the company made good on its threat, but those who had grabbed it previously could still re-download it. Then, in a nearly unprecedented step, Konami had the game wiped entirely from Sony’s servers, even for players who had downloaded it previously.
P.T.’s total eradication from PSN is such an unusual move that it actually renders the PS4’s game deletion screen incorrect or, at least, misleading: yes, it says you can re-download the game from your library in the future, but only “if you have a license” for it — and in the case of P.T., Konami just simultaneously revoked that license for every single person on Earth.
The consequence of Konami’s decision is this: There are now a finite number of copies of P.T. in the world. Starting this week, P.T. will never be downloaded by another human being ever again — the number of copies of P.T. will, from this point on, only ever decrease (barring interference from hackers and game archivists). Konami, in an almost impressive display of corporate anti-art, has found a way to attempt the first-ever murder of a digital game — and not just any game, its own game. This is likely one of the only times we’ll ever see this happen.
Of course, P.T. isn’t actually going anywhere; the game was downloaded over one million times, which means it’s backed up across over one million hard drives and SSDs in over one million PlayStation 4s all over the world. In reality, the game is not going to truly disappear — at least not until those hard drives start failing. But even then, Konami’s attempts to restrict access to P.T. are foolish, because copies will be made and encryption barriers will be broken. The coolest part, though, isn’t just that Konami failed — it’s how spectacularly the company’s plan has backfired.
The weird irony is that, had P.T. simply remained available, the number of people who are interested in playing it likely would’ve stayed roughly same as the number of people who have it already. But that’s not what happened; instead, Konami introduced scarcity to the equation, and instantly made P.T. one of the coolest, most fascinating games in the history of our medium. As of this week, P.T. is essentially the first rare, collectible digital video game. That’s … kind of rad.
Let me be clear: I hate, deeply, how Konami has handled the cancellation of Silent Hills. I think Kotaku’s Patrick Klepek nailed it last night when he ran the headline “Konami Sucks” — a headline that, in two words, summarizes how everyone who cares about this ordeal is feeling right now. Every single step of the way, it feels like Konami has made the most irresponsible, cowardly decision possible. As of this week, Konami has proven itself a company willing to go out of its way to actively destroy a critically acclaimed piece of art the millisecond it no longer financially benefits from that art’s continued existence. But believe me when I say there’s a silver lining: P.T., a game that most of us — even those of us who loved it — were mostly done talking about, is now more than ever a piece of gaming history to be treasured.
There’s been speculation that this isn’t the ending Konami wanted for P.T., that Norman Reedus’ face vanishing from the Silent Hills website was an indication that its contract with him had ended, and the decision to yank P.T. was out of the company’s hands. Even if that’s true, it feels like there are a billion other, far less nuclear ways Konami could’ve solved it: why not remove the sole cutscene that contains Reedus’ image (an ending that less than 0.1% of players likely ever saw), or work with Reedus, who publicly mourned the game, to keep his image in? Nuking an influential piece of artwork from orbit hardly seems like the answer. It’s a move that makes them look apathetic to the needs of their audience at best, and hostile at worst.
It doesn’t hurt that even before its recent demise, P.T. was already one of the most mysterious, interesting games ever created. Everything about P.T., from the bizarre concept of a ‘Playable Teaser’, to the pseudonymous manner in which it was released under the ‘7780s Studio’ moniker, to the way the internet came together (and continues to come together!) to solve its myriad riddles, would’ve been enough to make it historic on its own. Now, on top of all of that, it is rare. You couldn’t have come up with a better ending if you tried.
Rest assured, there are loads of people catching up on this week’s news who, before now, hadn’t heard of P.T., and suddenly they are dying to play this game. And they can’t — not easily, at least — and that’s sad, but at least they’re now aware of it. Even if they don’t know exactly what it is, they’ve heard of it, vaguely, and now it’ll remain in their memories forever; that mysterious, free PSN horror game that vanished in 2015. In a lot of ways, this is how urban legends get their start.
As a matter of fact, the P.T. apocrypha has already begun — just yesterday, a post with over 1,000 notes began circulating on Tumblr warning that this December, every single existing copy of P.T. would immediately stop working, never to be playable again.
Ultimately, this rumor turned out to be false: it began with a tweet of the image seen above from Minecraft composer C418, who noticed the “REMAINING TIME: 220 DAYS” timer listed on his copy of the game. He later retracted his tweet, explaining that P.T. was a PlayStation Plus exclusive in Germany, so the date listed on that screen was just his personal PS Plus renewal date. By then, though, the damage had been done: a cursory Twitter search for “PT December” shows countless people who are now convinced that the game will be disappearing from their PS4s come this holiday season.
This, I’m convinced, is just the beginning of what I hope will become a vibrant tradition of P.T. misinformation spreading through the internet. My friend Anthony Carboni put it best:
See, what makes spooky gaming myths so chilling is that they’re all unverifiable: Polybius is scary because, according to the myth, it only came to a handful of arcades; the Jvk1166z.esp creepypasta is scary because it’s a Morrowind mod that never actually existed. This lack of availability allows us to suspend our disbelief and more easily buy into the fiction. Konami has inadvertently granted P.T. some of that same scarcity, and in so doing has made one of the scariest games in years even creepier.
And look, even if it doesn’t become our generation’s Polybius the way I hope it does, P.T.’s 2014 birth and 2015 death are already two of the most significant events in gaming this century. In trying to demolish P.T., Konami has actually done the opposite: it has secured P.T.’s legacy as a monumental, scarce, cool-as-hell part of gaming history.