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It has become clear Sony is involved with an ARG marketing campaign tied to a secret PS5 game. What remains to be seen is, should it be something fans can get excited about? What we do know is that the Indie showcase title Abandoned is not even a real game at all. Which has left questions as to whether or not its development studio, Blue Box Games, and its director, Hasan Kahraman are real as well.
The Abandoned Timeline
- April 7th, 2021: Sony announces Abandoned, a cinematic survival sim coming to PS5 in 2021. This is presented in the form of a blog post on their official site and social channels. The announcement includes a short teaser trailer. This is in addition to a write-up about the game from its director, Hasan Kahraman. The details are that Blue Box Studios is the team behind the game. Abandoned will be open world and will take full advantage of the PS5’s 3D audio and haptic feedback. The realistic, cinematic, survival horror will have no HUD, a manual ammo check, and health restoration.
- Later on April 7th, 2021: The PlayStation community begins to draw connections between Abandoned and P.T. A fake game that was used to tease Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hills. Under the assumption that an indie team could not possibly make an open-world PS5 game with such a high level of detail. In addition to similar framing of key art between the two games. Hideo Kojima, the creator of P.T. worked with an ARG team and Geoff Keighley to secretly market Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain and its prologue, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. This included creating a fake studio and director.
- Even later on April 7th, 2021: GamesBeat and “Industry Insider” Jeff Grubb refutes conspiracy claims. He is certain Kojima is not making a secret PS5 game. This is due to Kojima being in talks with Microsoft on his next major release and, “Blue Box Studios is just a small studio that has never released a game before.”
I personally find it hard to believe that Kojima had the resources and time at Sony to make Death Stranding alongside another AAA horror game. I am adamant this can not be a brand new AAA game releasing anytime soon with Kojima at the lead. Although this does not disqualify Kojima’s involvement. While many will point to the existence of a small Kojima Productions team in the Netherlands, it is my opinion that they were assisting in utilizing the Decima Engine for Death Stranding. The shared development platform was built by Sony’s Guerilla Games who reside in that region.
Yet this does not close the door on any Kojima involvement. If this project is a remaster, a rerelease, or Sony finishing Silent Hills, that could fit. Silent Hills was the famously canceled, near-finished collaboration between Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima. A game that used the same exact ARG marketing.
The Development Team’s Mission History
- Early June 2021: As sleuths look into Blue Box Studios and Hasan Kahraman, a number of inconsistencies are discovered. Stock photos are used to depict employees, there is no relevant development history and what can be found is a mobile app called Gofit Fitness App. Which is described as “Personal Training ( PT ) Programs.”
- Mid-June 2021: Even more connections are made. The new Sony Studios and Blue Box Studios logos use the same font and art style, they are inverted images of each other. Blue Box Studios was founded the same day P.T. was released. Kahraman, the Turkish director translates to Hideo in Japanese. As well as Blue Box Studios’ odd timing of Tweets that seem to only line up with someone Tweeting from Japan.
- Mid-June 2021: A verified Hasan Kahraman PlayStation profile is found, his games played consist of Call of Duty, Dreams, and an unreleased game called “Demon Blood” that depicts internet horror meme, Siren Head.
- June 15th, 2021: Blue Box Studio Twitter account Tweets: ‘Abandoned = (First letter S, Last letter L). Reveal closing in… #PS5 #Exclusive”. Confirming that the game’s actual name is not Abandoned but something that starts with S and ends with L.
- June 15th, 2021: Blue Box Studio’s Twitter account refutes all connections to Konami and Silent Hill. A short explanation is posted on the studio’s official website. They then delete the Tweet in reference to the game’s name starting with S and ending with L.
- June 15th, 2021: Blue Box Studios announces Abandoned: Realtime Experience. A PS5 “app” that will play multiple trailers of the game, host live events, and gameplay demonstrations. Set to launch on June 22nd, leading up to an eventual reveal of the game’s real title.
The initial comments tying Abandoned to an ARG campaign for something larger seemed jovial and sarcastic. What followed was a number of industry insiders becoming protective of Blue Box Studios from harassment. Many thought the confusion would be harmful to the studio. Plus we have the known Kojima Xbox news. With that, it could not be what most were assuming it was. Discussions involving the game died down through the end of May.
That is until the completely moronic June 15th Tweet by Blue Box Studios. Them announcing the game Abandoned is not even a real game sure is a head-scratcher. The only way this Tweet makes sense is if it is to drum up the dialog again in regards to Abandoned. This is what I believe to be the case, and it worked. That June 15th Tweet of Blue Box saying the game starts with an S and ends with an L, ignited online communities to keep digging. This lead to more uncovering of inconsistencies in their story and engagement grew overnight. As the ARG marketing campaign is designed to do.
Keighley And Blue Box Caught In A Lie
- June 17th, 2021: Geoff Keighley says he has been speaking with the team behind Abandoned and hopes to be able to show more of their game soon.
- June 17th, 2021: Geoff Keighley was caught lying after posting an “old” Twitter DM between himself and Hasan Kahraman. The DM was clearly sent that same day.
- Late June 2021: Blue Box Studios Twitter account Tweets that the game has a budget of around $250,000, employs around 50 developers, development started in 2015, and is outsourced to seven different teams.
- June 20th, 2021: Redditors uncover that footage used in the first Abandoned trailer was just reused assets from the Unreal Engine asset store. Hasan Kahraman clarifies on his Twitter account that none of the footage from the PSBlog post is actually from the game. It is merely just to represent the theme in the game.
- June 22nd, 2021: I take a closer look at Blue Box Studio’s website and public DNS records. All SEO and image metadata has been scrubbed from the site. Which is hosted on a shared hosting service and appears to be set up as a redirect. A third-party click counter has been configured in an attempt to hide who is collecting the web analytics.
Geoff Keighley’s connection to Abandoned is understated. A close and personal friend of Hideo Kojima, Keighley was heavily involved in the marketing campaigns dating back to 2012 when Kojima did the same exact ARG campaign for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Keighley has been working with Kojima for nearly a decade on marketing his games. Geoff Keighley has a terrible poker face, and it is very likely we hear more about whatever Abandoned is during his Gamescom event on August 24th. I am willing to give up on Kojima’s involvement but, this feels like a smoking gun.
Prior to getting caught in a lie, Geoff Keighley said, “This is not what you think it is.” He clearly understands the negative impact false expectations can have on a game, so I genuinely believe him here. My brain starts to move in the direction of something smaller, “Is this just a PS5 rerelease of P.T? Is Konami doing a collection of Silent Hill ports to the PS4 and PS5 like they just did with Castlevania?”
Another important detail that stands out to me, is the Blue Box Twitter account constantly getting caught in lies related to the development and scope of the game. When they were caught using recycled Unreal assets, the team immediately caved. I can not imagine they can legally claim they made content from the trailer they did not make. Another issue I have is with the game’s budget, for some reason they felt compelled to give insight into development costs. The team is made up of 50+ developers in the Netherlands, early work started in 2015, It has a budget of $250,000 and has seven outsourced teams working on the game.
Let’s give the team the benefit of the doubt that full production started three years later in 2018. Wich is a huge overestimate given that most indie games are made in three years or less. Nonetheless, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and, let’s count this entire year into the cost. $250,000 divided by 36 months is $6,954.00 per month in budget. Divide that by 50 people (they said there were “50+ people” at the studio), which gives you about $140 per person, per month. This is before the seven outsourcing studios and costs prior to 2018.
They want us to believe that they are paying their 4K 60 FPS open-world PS5 developers less than $200 per month in salary. This is not a mix-up, this is not a currency or translation error, they are just flat out lying. The Abandoned game was a lie, the studio is a lie, the entire marketing campaign is a lie. So is this either an Indie Studio in over their head or some cool new thing we do not know about yet.
The Abandoned Realtime Experience PS5 App
- June 22nd, 2021: Abandoned: Realtime Experience PS5 app delayed to June 25th.
- June 23rd, 2021: To answer critics claiming Blue Box Studio is fake, a statement is released by popular outsource animation and art studio Nuare. They confirmed they were working with Blue Box on the game.
- June 25th, 2021: Abandoned: Realtime Experience PS5 app delayed to August.
- July 20th, 2021: Head of PlayStation Indie Development Shuhei Yoshida gives a coy response when pressed if he was going to highlight Blue Box Game Studio any time soon.
- July 29th, 2021: Pre-install can begin for the Abandoned: Realtime Experience PS5 app. Which is now set to launch on August 10th. The download contains a 1.937 GB file. A face is depicted behind the key art for the Abandoned: Realtime Experience PS5 app
There is nothing you can say that will convince me Sony would let a small indie studio release a PS5 “app.” Many indie developers the size of Blue Box received their PS5 dev kits in 2021. Never mind have the opportunity to create a 4K 60 FPS open-world realistic horror sim with a companion app. The industry skeptics protective of Blue Box Studios stopped Tweeting about it when Blue Box announced Abandoned was a fake game. They turned entirely on the subject once the “Realtime Experience” app was announced. Shuhei Yoshida’s coy response to questions about the game insinuates Sony’s knowledge of something bigger.
Additional Context That May Be Unrelated
- October 31st, 2019: BluePoint games (Gravity Rush Remastered, Shadow of the Colossus remake) tease that they are working on more than one game in a Tweet that makes reference to at least seven classic PlayStation titles. Among them are Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Demon’s Souls, and Twisted Metal. BluePoint games would go on to announce a Demon’s Souls remake as a PS5 launch title.
- March 13th, 2020: We ran a story involving a substantiated leak that Konami had licensed out the rights to Silent Hill for two games. One to The Bloober team, who were just finishing work on Silent Hill homage game, The Medium. The other to an unnamed Japanese team. Which we assumed at the time was Sony Japan, where Silent Hill creator and director Keiichiro Toyama resided.
- December 2nd, 2020: Keiichiro Toyama announces his new independent company Bokeh Game Studio. Internal teams inside of Sony Japan disband and depart for various endeavors.
- February 3rd, 2021: Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, slips up during an interview with Youtube content creator Al Hub. He says a project fans have been “hoping to hear about” could be announced, “sometime this summer.”
- February 5th, 2021: Interview with Akira Yamaoka is removed from Al Hub’s Youtube page. IGN corroborates the story between Konami and Al Hub that a private third party asked the video to be removed, not Konami.
- May 18th, 2021: Geoff Keighley announces a digital event will be hosted for Gamescom called, “Opening Night Live.” It will feature new game announcements. The event will take place on August 24th.
- June 10th, 2021: Geoff Keighley works with Kojima and Sony to premier a bizarre trailer for the Director’s Cut of Death Stranding.
- June 21st, 2021: Konami launches a new line of Silent Hill merch. Many of the items shown in early teasers do not appear in the store due to delays. Silent Hill is displayed with new black and red branding that barrows fonts from all previous Silent Hill games. The new logo says “Silent Hill” above a Demonic Circle. The text is shifted over one character to the left leaving some to speculate about a missing “s” at the end of Silent Hill.
- June 21st, 2021: GamesBeat reports, Xbox hires industry legend Kim Swift to work with developers (Kojima) on cloud games.
- June 30th, 2021: Konami and Team Bloober announce a new partnership involving a Konami IP. No other details are given, yet this corroborates the initial Silent Hill story we ran in March of 2020.
For a long time, I assumed that SIE Japan Studios was the second team making a Silent Hill game. I loved the idea of the franchise coming home to its original creator in Toyama while being in the care of a big-budget AAA Sony studio. When the former Silent Hill leads left Sony I thought that was the end and any projects were canceled. Akira Yamaoka’s comments, the Konami merch store, and everything in the ARG that ties back to Silent Hill is too much smoke for there not to be a fire. Kojima’s involvement is cloudy at best. Meanwhile, the size of the game and whether or not it is even connected to Silent Hill is not corroborated in anything other than coincidence.
While it is not yet clear what exactly Abandoned is, one thing is for sure we know what it is not. We may not have to wait long to discover the truth behind Blue Box Studios. Gamescom Opening Night Live is only a few weeks away and the Abandoned Experience app goes live on August 10th.
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