Hideo Kojima is arguably one of the most vibrant creatives working in the video games industry. The mastermind behind the iconic Metal Gear Solid series, plus 2019’s Death Stranding, has a long-standing relationship with Sony and PlayStation. The Metal Gear games are widely regarded as quintessential PlayStation titles, whilst Death Stranding was initially released as a PS4 and PS5 exclusive, albeit ported to PC with assistance from Nvidia afterwards. With news breaking recently that Kojima Productions have teamed up with Xbox Game Studios to publish Hideo’s next video game, a subset of Sony’s fanbase were left raging, spouting accusations of betrayal alongside a frankly trivial petition to halt whatever it is Kojima and Xbox have up their sleeves.
The fact of the matter is a creative and strategic alignment between Kojima Productions and Xbox Game Studios has been on the cards for a while. A rumour this colossal could only ever turn out true, so when Hideo appeared on-screen during the recent Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase to formally announce the partnership, there weren’t too many raised eyebrows in the industry. Instead, the main line of intrigue stemming from this announcement centres on the game they’re going to produce together. Details are scant, but Hideo himself states he’ll be making a game he’s “always wanted to make,” and that the two creative behemoths are in the early stages of a brand-new concept, a completely new game that “no one has ever experienced or seen before.”
It’s not a complete jump ship though; Kojima Productions have been swift to point out that their relationship with Sony is still good. We know – or at least, we think we know – that a Death Stranding sequel is in the works, based on Norman Reedus letting slip in a recent interview that they’ve started work on the second one. It’s not uncommon for production companies of this scale to work on multiple projects simultaneously, so it’s likely Death Stranding 2 will be created alongside the brand-new Xbox exclusive.
A confusing spanner in the works though is this Xbox exclusive game is rumoured to be a horror title going by the name Overdose, with leaked footage reportedly starring Margaret Qualley, who those who’ve played Death Stranding will remember as the actress portraying Mama. It was described in detail by independent journalist Tom Henderson who claimed to have been sent the early footage under the guise of anonymity. In it, Margaret is said to be wearing a blue dress whilst walking through dark corridors dimly lit by flashlight. The footage reportedly ends with a jump scare, with “GAMEOVER” appearing on screen followed by four magic words: “A Hideo Kojima game.” The title card “OVERDOSE” then makes an appearance, but to be fair this alone doesn’t confirm for definite a game in the works.
So, sure, Henderson’s article alone isn’t concrete enough evidence. However, shortly after the article was published, Henderson provided an update stating Kojima Productions had been in touch to request the publication be removed to which Henderson respectfully declined. Whether inadvertently or not, the request to remove the story only adds fuel to the fire, and that this footage is indeed legit.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Hideo has remnants of ideas leftover from the terminated Silent Hills reboot that he’s eager to revisit. Creeping through corridors, as per Henderson’s description of the footage, is certainly reminiscent of P.T., the playable teaser and bone-chilling proof of concept for the Silent Hill game that sadly never came to be. Overdose, based on what Henderson describes, might be the only way we’ll ever get to play Hideo’s vision for a reimagined Silent Hill game, for rumours abound Konami is planning to resurrect the iconic series elsewhere.
These speculative ramblings on the narrative foundation and gameplay loops of the yet to be officially revealed Xbox exclusive are all well and good, but the question remains as to why Kojima Productions decided to team up with Xbox Game Studios in the first place. Assuming Microsoft’s ginormous pockets offering more money and budgets bigger than Sony could dream of aren’t the sole motivator, Kojima himself has stated working with Xbox Game Studios means the new game can take advantage of Microsoft’s ‘cutting edge technology,’ ensuring it can better leverage changing industry trends as a result. Now, it is common knowledge at this point the new game will harness cloud technology, and there’s none more powerful presently than Microsoft’s state-of-the-art Azure cloud service.
Utilising Azure for game development, Microsoft say, streamlines the entire creation process, ensuring low-latency gameplay with powerful systems that’ll help players seamlessly communicate, play, compete, and engage together. Perhaps most importantly, the technology possesses ability to understand and react to player behaviour. Now this last point is crucial as in an interview as recent as September 2021 Kojima himself expressed desire to make a game that changes in real-time based on player’s thoughts, experiences, and geographical location.
Making a game that updates in real-time on a player-to-player basis honestly seems unfathomably ambitious. How the experience can be tailored to individuals’ playthroughs beyond surface-level detail such as time of day and weather systems that accurately reflect conditions outside is surely beyond the realms of possibility.
Should these ideals come to fruition though, then perhaps the game will collect user data based on playstyle, optimising the severity of jump scare to best frighten the player? This seems plausible, but to be fair it doesn’t seem in keeping with the more philosophical angles posed by Hideo’s ambitions; that is, surely, he’s wanting to create a game that best connects players’ in-game experiences to the real world, bridging the gap between virtual and reality. He’s utilised fourth wall breaking hijinks before of course, with Metal Gear Solid’s Psycho Mantis reading your memory card as prime example. Maybe the new game will deliver messages across other platforms to the player? Should the game be a horror, this serves up some potentially blood-curdling possibilities.
Hideo does have more thoughtful experience in real-world connectivity though, as seen with the solar panel gimmick built-in to the cartridge for Game Boy Advance exclusive Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, a game in which players harvest sunlight to power the in-game weaponry required to slay the game’s vampire enemies. Boktai represents the very essence of adapting the game experience based on when and where the player is.
Death Stranding, of course, utilised player interactivity in interesting ways too, with built structures, abandoned cargo, traversal aids, and signposts shared between players. Should this concept be extrapolated into a horror experience as per the rumoured Overdose, perhaps the game takes place during an outbreak, with mass confusion and the frantic ordeal to survive shared between players, with the game world changing irreversibly the more players dive in to leave help for each other. This is shallow speculation of course, for replicating the interconnectedness of Death Stranding in another title surely isn’t innovative enough for Kojima-san. Plus, Death Stranding’s player interactivity is thematically tied to the game’s overarching narrative, which obviously at present we have no direct correlation for the rumoured Overdose.
Whatever Kojima Productions and Xbox Game Studios have up their sleeves, it’s surely going to be wholly inventive and ambitious. It’s just a shame we’re still a long way away from learning exactly what this revolutionary concept is.
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