In the early 2000s, Silent Hill was king. If you wanted a creepy, atmospheric, story-driven survival horror game, they were the best the genre had to offer. After The Room, the series lost much of its steam, and it didn’t really come back until after Christophe Gans’ film adaptation, which did remarkably well when it released back in 2006.
So how did we go from the iconic foggy town and doomsday cult to being chased through a frozen world and getting psychologically profiled by a game that “plays you as much as you play it”? Apparently, it was because of the Wii.
The folks at the UK gaming magazine Edge have written up a fantastic in-depth look at the origins of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.
The game started out as something called Silent Hill: Cold Heart. It was an attempt to expose the series to a brand-new — and potentially larger — demographic, casual gamers, and would have followed a psychologically traumatized college student as she explored the town of Silent Hill.
The desire to cater to a wider audience was the reasoning behind their decision to make it a Wii exclusive.
“We thought, this is a chance for us to engage with what is potentially quite a large audience,” Sam Barlow, lead designer at Climax Studios, told Edge. “The pitch from us was always, ‘How many people own a Wii? How many of those people have enjoyed watching a horror movie or psychological thriller?’ We thought there were quite a lot of people we could sell this game to.”
Unfortunately, development was held back by corporate red tape. The project changed many of the fundamental things that made the series so popular in the first place. The combat, monsters, and iconic foggy town were no more, and that drastic departure from past games in the series was making it difficult for them to proceed.
Then, Barlow discovered a loophole. “At some point before Origins they’d greenlit the idea of a Silent Hill remake,” Barlow explains. “The logic was, ‘Hey, if we say this [Wii project] is a Silent Hill remake, it has already been greenlit and we can start working on this project right away.”
If you’re a fan of the series, the article is a fascinating read. I recommend you check it out, even if you haven’t played Shattered Memories.