Blue Box Dev Behind PS5's Abandoned Misled Fans, Solicited Business Deals In "Toxic" Chatroom

It’s been over a year since Abandoned was first announced on the PlayStation Blog, and by now you may have heard about the controversial game in one of several very different contexts. Shortly after its reveal, some fans began speculating that the game was a secret Hideo Kojima project, perhaps even his return to the Silent Hill franchise after releasing P.T. eight years ago. Seeking to counter their claims, others pointed to Blue Box Game Studios’ well-documented and lackluster development history, arguing that Abandoned is just another in a long line of games announced by the studio that will never see a release.

The lead developer on the project, Hasan Kahraman, has said Abandoned is exactly what he always said it was: an indie survival-horror about a lone survivor stuck in the woods with a cult. However, in the past year, onlookers have also seen it become a game about a rampant superintelligent AI. More recently, it was said to be a game about vampires. As it stands, there is no meaningful evidence that Abandoned exists in any real way–though there is a long trail of dubious business deals, uninspiring leaks, and a chatroom full of fans, including at least one child, where the game’s lead developer has misled a captive audience for months.

Despite once being planned to release on PS5 in the fall of 2021, several people close to Kahraman tell GameSpot that there is no game–at least not one that is actively being worked on. The reason for that isn’t as fun as it being part of some long-con Kojima ARG like fans once suspected. In reality, those close to Kahraman tell GameSpot, despite Kahraman’s public claims that the game’s development is coming along, he has privately admitted Abandoned is on hold and he first needs to fund its development with a playable prologue, which our sources indicate he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to create.

Interviews with more than half a dozen people who have had close contact with Kahraman since September 2021 have detailed a picture of a game in disarray and a developer who promises a lot, including paid work for fans, but delivers very little.

Two months after Abandoned’s original reveal invited a brief spark of fan theories, Kahraman shared a since-deleted tweet from Blue Box’s Twitter account that said a reveal was “closing in” and offered a hint that the game’s real name starts with S and ends with L. By overtly leaning into the Silent Hill speculation, Kahraman reignited the theory that there was more to this game than players were initially led to believe, and so began the summer of Abandoned. Multiple Discord servers, subreddits, and other forums were created with the sole purpose of trying to find the proverbial curtain Kojima and/or Konami were hiding behind.

The now-deleted tweet sent by Blue Box reignited Silent Hill fan theories two months after they quieted down.

It was not an unreasonable belief–after all, it’s something Kojima had done twice before. First, when he briefly hid behind a fake studio, Moby Dick, and used a stand-in developer with the pseudonym Joakim Mogren to sell the charade, before revealing that he was behind the stunt and the team’s game was actually his next project, Metal Gear Solid V, under Konami. Later, P.T. was attributed to 7780s, another studio invented wholecloth so Kojima could surprise players with what the playable teaser was actually teasing: a long-awaited Silent Hill sequel.

For a few days, Abandoned could’ve arguably passed for another Kojima ruse. But as theories around Abandoned grew more outlandish each day, forums began to express pareidolia, a wish-fulfilling drive to find patterns where they don’t exist. These numerous patterns have been well-documented and already debunked. But what’s important is not that fans gathered to discuss the game, but that Kahraman seems to have been there too, following the community he helped create as it tirelessly crafted theories about the true nature of his indie game.

Over time, he seemed to bend the direction of his game and its concept to retrofit what fans were saying. When they thought it was Silent Hill, he released a brief teaser in the game’s strange, almost featureless standalone app on PS5 that included music very much like that of Silent Hill’s longtime composer Akira Yamaoka. When the fans thought he was teasing a Metal Gear Solid project, he reworked the horror story centered on a cult to instead focus on a fourth-wall-breaking AI program and secret government cover-ups.

There are many things still mysterious about Blue Box, such as who else is on the team. Kahraman has said roughly 50 people, including outsourcing studios, are working on Abandoned. The Dutch Chamber of Commerce confirmed with GameSpot that Blue Box was founded in 2015 with 10 employees. To date, Blue Box’s registration with the Chamber of Commerce has never been updated to reflect a different number of employees, though a representative told GameSpot it is the business’ responsibility to update details such as this. Kahraman did update its registration twice in the last seven years: once to change the business address and another time to register an alternate trade name, Pixel Molecule, which the company appears not to have used.

Much of what GameSpot has learned recently about the developer comes from those with knowledge of a private and very exclusive online group chatroom. Sources say since last fall, this has been a space where Kahraman would share game materials such as screenshots, animations, and even a page of the game’s script. The group’s original iteration was composed of roughly a dozen fans from one of the Discord servers that sprang up to study the mysteries surrounding the game. Kahraman hand-picked who to invite based on who he “researched,” he once told the group.

Those in his group chat were often sworn to secrecy–some were even made to sign a vague NDA, of which GameSpot obtained a copy. According to sources, Kahraman sought agreeable fans, and when some members of the group would challenge him on his empty promises and discrepancies between public and private comments, he would kick them out or make a new, sometimes smaller group with only new and/or still-agreeable fans. The group has gone through roughly half a dozen iterations, pulling in various fans from different social media platforms. For a while, some members stuck around because they still believed in the project; others simply liked the exclusive access.

Those with knowledge of the group have described Kahraman as duplicitous and prone to mood swings, often getting into heated arguments when members of the group would ask for progress updates or question his honesty. He’d then profusely apologize later, sometimes attributing his outbursts to the stress he was under due to the wave of fan theories.

One person told GameSpot that Kahraman admitted to keeping some people in the group just so they wouldn’t leak things he had previously shared with them. He took to sending voice messages, which sources felt was a strategy used by him to avoid screenshots of conversations being taken. This is where “the most egregious things were said,” according to a source. He left at least one member feeling “hurt” and others frustrated or confused at how he would say one thing publicly, then another in private to his inner circle.

Often, when members leaked things he shared, Kahraman would publicly deny that the materials were a part of his project while he privately sought to identify the leakers. On one occasion, Kahraman put an audio file on his studio website that he wanted to show the group as the latest exclusive asset. The cryptic audio, which is now available on YouTube, was poorly translated into Japanese as though it was done using a program such as Google Translate. Sources felt the use of Japanese was another way Kahraman chose to lean into the Kojima theories even as he simultaneously refuted them. The audio tied into the “Zero Cell” plot Kahraman was pivoting to at the time, which sources say sounded like a Metal Gear Solid copycat.

But when it was shared online because someone outside the group found it, Kahraman publicly claimed his website was hacked and that he didn’t know it was even there. Messages obtained by GameSpot show Kahraman saying he wanted to find out who leaked it to the Redditor who ultimately shared it widely. A source said this display of blatant dishonesty made things awkward in the group.

Kahraman would speak of potential business partners as “scammers,” including Nuare Studio, an established team he once planned to commission for artwork on the game. According to sources, Kahraman used similar sentiments to describe various producers including Summer Games Fest’s Geoff Keighley and the team behind GamesRadar’s Future Games Show. Whenever one of the game’s scheduled showings was delayed, which happened several times in the last year, sources say he was quick to place blame elsewhere.

He sought to form both a working and romantic relationship with one member of the group and promised to pay them for work done on the game’s PlayStation Trophy-related art after the studio began to receive revenue for the game’s release. He said in March of 2022 that he planned to visit the prospective business and romantic partner in-person two months later when he’d be “free,” which the person took to mean Kahraman expected to be done with the game’s prologue by then. One of several splits in the group chat also separated the pair on both social and professional terms and, according to sources, they haven’t spoken since.

In another situation, he asked a member of the group to act as his shipping partner by storing some of the game’s eventual physical copies in the US to prevent Kahraman from needing to find a storage facility by traveling from The Netherlands to the US himself. He offered to both pay the fan $1,500 for this, which he said would cover expenses with some money left over as “profit,” and set them up with a Blue Box Game Studios email address so they could correspond with Sony. He admitted the final details, including payment, were still to be determined. A few days after sending the fan a form from Sony Interactive Entertainment to fill out, which included his own home address, Kahraman rescinded the odd deal.

Kahraman sought business arrangements with more than one fan in his chatroom.
Kahraman sought business arrangements with more than one fan in his chatroom.

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Oddly, the youngest person in the group was just 12 years old, and was described by other members as loud and rude. On one occasion while the group chatted in a PlayStation voice party, this young fan told another member of the group to kill themself, while Kahraman remained quiet on his end. Other members privately consoled the person and expressed disappointment that Kahraman did nothing about it.

Since last fall, the group has gone through several iterations but has maintained one commonality: It’s been “toxic.” What began as a place for eager fans to socialize with the developer of a game that was in the spotlight had become more like a pledge of allegiance and secrecy to someone who conducts themselves in a questionable manner. Sources say members felt like they were meant to support the game and praise Kahraman in between rounds of Rainbow Six Siege with him–a game he frequently invited some of them to play deep into the night–or they could get out.

Some who have spoken to GameSpot said they have been afraid to speak out on the game’s lack of progress or Kahraman’s erratic behavior due to the aforementioned NDA he had some members fill out and sign. The document asked for their private addresses, among other information. However, a copy of that NDA acquired by GameSpot features a lack of legal language, suggesting it was drawn up hastily and may be non-binding. It also includes some grammatical errors similar to those Kahraman makes in his writings. Those with knowledge of the group have decided to speak up more recently as materials he shared have begun to leak en masse.

A copy of the NDA Kahraman asked some fans in his chat group to sign.
A copy of the NDA Kahraman asked some fans in his chat group to sign.

Most recently, a trove of materials shared by Kahraman to the group chat over the course of several months found its way to places like Twitter and Reddit. Some of these materials were verified as having come from Kahraman by GameSpot earlier this year during our ongoing investigation. Among the pieces newly revealed to the public is artwork with the words “Silent Hill 5” on it, using the same asset of a character’s legs in jeans and dark shoes that the developer has utilized in several other items both public and private.

Initially, Kahraman wanted to once more publicly label the leaks fake, but he was convinced by others in private to “come clean” and admit they are real in a since-deleted tweet that he released jointly with a YouTuber who had been following the story. Shortly after publishing the statement on Kahraman’s behalf, the YouTuber deleted his tweet and said he no longer had faith in Kahraman’s version of events. Even in that statement, Kahraman alleged the assets weren’t from Abandoned.

According to sources, this happened often in the group. Kahraman would share something, the group would be unimpressed and possibly even leak it to various outsiders, at which point Kahraman would say he was just testing their loyalty and that the assets are not from Abandoned after all. This began to happen more after the Zero Cell audio leak, at which time Kahraman was said to have become more suspicious of those in the group.

It appears the recent run of Abandoned leaks is a reaction to the many Silent Hill leaks in the news. It’s as though credible reports of a real Silent Hill game are stirring up frustrated reminders that Abandoned was once thought to be that game, but in fact is no game at all.

Kahraman used to tell the group he was actively working on Abandoned, but as time went on, he would fail to show much of anything that seemed genuine or compelling, often even missing self-imposed deadlines. For instance, after saying he had a reveal planned for a day of the week, that day would come and go without a new development.

GameSpot is aware of another instance of a similar tactic by Kahraman, in which he told us Abandoned would be shown across three separate dates spanning Summer 2021 including Gamescom. The game failed to materialize all three times, and according to public remarks from Gamescom producer Geoff Keighley, Kahraman failed to send him any materials.

Sources say Kahraman eventually admitted to the PSN group that Abandoned is not in development, but to this day maintains that a playable prologue is. As previously mentioned, the sales of that prologue are intended to fund the full game and attract investors, but the materials he’s shared with the private group have only caused confusion. He would promise play tests, sometimes to even just one person in the group, but no play tests were ever actually presented. Some members had a running joke that the game should be called “Wallbandoned” because so much of what Kahraman showed them were in-game walls and nothing more. Those close to the situation question how much progress is actually being made on even the prologue.

A major obstacle in that regard is how the game has been reimagined several times, from cult horror to action game and back, to a new vampire concept that one source said sounded like a Resident Evil ripoff. In June of 2021, he told GameSpot that a multiplayer beta was on the way, but no such beta has ever come to be, and sources say even among his inner circle, it seems Kahraman has stopped talking about multiplayer in Abandoned.

Most recently, it’s said that the game is back to telling a story about a cult, but it seems not to matter. Those who spoke to GameSpot say he never appears to be working on the game or its prologue. Since last fall, he has so often been chatting with the group or playing Siege straight through the night that those close to the situation feel the time for meaningful progress doesn’t seem available. They expect Abandoned to end up like the last several games announced by Blue Box: discarded after little progress and without much more than a reveal trailer. His past games were virtually scrubbed from the internet and this one would seem destined for the same fate. Only this time, and for the first time in his career, Kahraman has an audience for his game of smoke and mirrors, and it’s one he seems unable or unwilling to manage.

A representative for PlayStation did not respond for comment. Kahraman declined to comment.

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