Remembering P.T., the Incredible Horror Teaser
A little over eight years ago, Gamescom was in full swing. It attracted over 335,000 attendees from 88 countries and featured a range of interesting games, from the unique Superhot to the never-was Shadow Realms from BioWare. For many, it was a chance to play the year’s hottest releases (and some future ones, including FromSoftware’s Bloodborne). Amid it all, however, was the buzz surrounding a unique little thing called P.T.
Developed by the unknown 7780s Studio, it actually went live on the PlayStation Store right before Gamescom on August 12th 2014. P.T. was short for “playable teaser” and greeted players with a seemingly innocuous title screen set in a mysterious forest. The “game” itself, however, took place in a strange hallway that continuously repeated itself, looping several times. It soon became apparent, however, that each loop presented something new, slowly unraveling in unique and horrifying ways.
After solving the various puzzles in the teaser, fans discovered an announcement for Silent Hills at the end. The horror series had seen its fair share of disappointments over the years but things were seemingly turning around. Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima and fantasy horror film director Guillermo del Toro were attached to the project, which starred The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus.
And while there was exceptional buzz over the prospect of a new title, P.T. had grown into its own media phenomenon. Video game demos had been a thing forever but P.T. was something else entirely – a teaser that was its own entity, completely separate from the main game. The photorealistic visuals meshed with the uncomfortable atmosphere; the intriguingly disturbing story of Lisa and her family; and the “walking simulator” gameplay that still challenged the player to solve its various, cryptic mysteries were all praised. It also tapped into the community aspect of horror gaming as fans worked together to solve its puzzles, interpret the story and much more.
Even if the first-person perspective was nothing new for horror games, P.T. had this freshness to it – of the player being truly unaware what lay around the next corner. Or right behind the player if they turned around at the wrong time. What could Silent Hills offer, especially with Kojima and del Toro at the helm? It was truly a new beginning for the franchise.
However, it wasn’t to be.
Several months later in March 2015, reports emerged of Hideo Kojima leaving Konami with his name removed from several Metal Gear products. Rumors of a falling out, coupled with the rebranding of Kojima Productions to Konami Digital Entertainment and departure of several senior staff, raised significant questions about the future of Silent Hills. Konami would later confirm that while “future Silent Hill projects” were “currently underway” – which is freaking hilarious in hindsight – Silent Hills would not be continued. Reedus and del Toro tweeted their disappointment for the same, and the latter continues to lambast Konami to this day for its decision.
As if all of that weren’t bad enough, the publisher made the decision to remove P.T. from the PlayStation Store in April. This prompted an expected amount of backlash because not only was it being delisted, but those who previously played the teaser would be blocked from redownloading it. In a series of recent tweets, Pearl L, who worked as a first-party lead for Konami at the time, revealed that she helped set P.T. up on the storefront, “fake publisher and everything.”
“And I was the one who had to call Sony and ask them to take it down and block redownloads. That was a super fun conversation”. Describing the removal as a “tough situation all around,” Pearl described the difficulties in its removal. “We’d already gone through a lot to get it set up, and got a lot of operational exceptions. And then to add the request to block redownload? More engineering workarounds. It was exciting to see people hype about it and see the work pay off! But in a way also not.”
When the date had come and gone, PS4 consoles that had the demo installed were selling for $1000 to $1500 online. Even if Konami didn’t want to advertise a game that was cancelled, the removal was still frustrating.
However, despite efforts to effectively erase it from public memory, P.T.’s influence was still strong. Several developers announced their own P.T.-inspired horror titles from Allison Road and Layers of Fear (which is getting another sequel next year) to Visage and the recently released MADiSON. Fans would also develop their own remakes, whether it was in Project Spark on Xbox (before that was canned), Unreal Engine and even in Media Molecule’s Dreams.
Even the initial reveal of Capcom’s Resident Evil 7: biohazard with its first-person gameplay and psychological horror had elicited comparisons to the teaser, even though designer Jordan Amaro – who was the level designer for Silent Hills – noted that the latter would have been “quite different.” References would also be seen in other titles including Kojima’s own Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and Death Stranding Director’s Cut.
The teaser was subsequently data-mined, revealing all kinds of interesting secrets years later, like the conditions for Lisa attacking the player, models which ended up being unused, and even a map of Silent Hill outside of the never-ending hallway. Even as new horror titles emerge and older franchises are revived, P.T. remains a significant milestone in the genre all these years later.
As for any “newer” Silent Hill projects, Konami has yet to officially announce anything. There have been a fair number of rumors though. Kojima working on a reboot for Sony in collaboration with Konami. A Japanese developer reportedly working on a new title. Layers of Fear developer Bloober Team working on a Silent Hill 2 remake. The list goes on and on. The only real proof of a new Silent Hill were some concept art images from a 2020 title that leaked this year (and we only know they’re legitimate due to their removal via DMCA).
It’s easy to look back on P.T. as something gimmicky or even misleading. Kojima himself admitted that the actual Silent Hills had no relation to the teaser (even if the player character was modeled after Reedus, as dataminers discovered). Despite all of this, it was a radical concept and at least represented Kojima’s approach to horror, relying more on psychological fear and less on gore to create a terrifying atmosphere. How it would have worked in a full game remains one of gaming’s biggest “What if” scenarios.
Pearl’s comments perhaps best sum up what it was like at the time for fans. “It was definitely really fun to be plotting this secret cool thing for the fans. It was amazing to see everyone come together to try to figure out the experience and see them come away with so much love for it! I’m super grateful I got to be a part of that in some small way.”
For those who were there at the time, either furtively playing the demo and being left traumatized at the hands of Lisa (especially on dying), or watching people play through it, P.T. remains a special experience.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.