There has been some distress on the Internet (what’s new, right?) regarding the announcement of a game through a, at times, very convoluted ‘playable teaser.’ I thought it was perfect, though, especially for what it is.
Fair warning: if you don’t want to know what P.T. is a teaser for (no clue how you don’t know yet) then steer clear of this article. Also, if you haven’t played it yet: I am going to spoil it.
So, for those who don’t know, P.T., or “Playable Teaser,” is the means by which Hideo Kojima decided to announce Silent Hills, the new Silent Hill game he is collaborated with Guillermo del Toro to make. The game is completely cloaked in ambiguity though. It is listed as “P.T.” and developed by the fictional “7780s Studios,” which is actually a neat reference to the Japanese town Shizuoka, which roughly translates to “Quiet Hill.”
Overall, I thought this was very much in the Kojima spirit. I mean, he has done this sort of thing before (see: Metal Gear Solid V), but this kind of social/viral marketing is fun for the consumer. Some may say, “just announce the damn game,” but giving the player the means to work for an announcement allows a new sense of accomplishment. It connects you, the player, to the actual announcement itself, and through that, a level of personal attachment to something that you just discovered. I’ve never been a huge Silent Hill fan, but I am exceptionally excited for this iteration. The marketing worked – not because of a trick, but because it was good.
The Best Way to Announce a Game
I’m one of those people who is always raving about how video games are an advantageous medium because you can play and interact with the worlds you see through them. In the same vein, playing an announcement seems like the optimal way to actually announce a new title.
By delving into something unknown and mysterious, you don’t really have an expectation. I developed a repertoire with the brief world of P.T., and the actual progression of the game lends itself to that idea. You’re going through the same area over and over, and though it does change as the demo goes on, it’s progressive; the true horror of the experience is developing something so familiar so quickly and then completely taking it away.
The point here is that the hour or so it took for me to beat P.T. allowed me to get involved. By the end of it, I was invested in whatever came next, so regardless of it ending up being a franchise I wasn’t familiar with, I was familiar with it now. The game, in a way, fools you, the player, to invest in a complete unknown. It’s brilliantly executed.
I don’t think that this is something you can do every time, nor do I think it works for every franchise, but in this instance, it worked excellently. The vibe, the feel, and the impression it made on me were all very specific, and even if what I played doesn’t translate directly into the final project, the themes and concepts I felt through the demo give me an idea of what to expect. Maybe Silent Hills will look and feel completely different, maybe not, but if it’s anything like the demo I played, I am looking forward to it.
Where Viral Marketing Falls Apart
While I am pretty glowing about P.T. and the admirable execution of it all, it does meet the wall that most viral marketing ends up seeing: it get’s too complicated. Just like any puzzle, there needs to be balance. Not only is this specific puzzle too hard, but it’s inconsistent.
The final puzzle consists of, at the time I’m writing this, completing an unknown second task. You have to perform three actions to make a phone ring, and right now, there is just no solid grasp on what one of them is. This resulted in me, in two of the three playthroughs I had of P.T., wondering around trying a bunch of things I read about online. Usually to no avail.
I understand the original intent was for this puzzle to take days or weeks to solve, but with the impatience of the internet and the strong pacing of just about everything else in this demo, it didn’t work.
That aside, and all things considered, I think this could be the most exciting video game announcement in years. Maybe it’ll start a trend, which may result in ‘too many’ developers using this trick, but it’s definitely an idea I’d love to see revisited.