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Silent Hill: Downpour in danger as its developer goes “under review”

Silent Hill’s curse isn’t limited to the realm of fiction apparently. Vatra, the Czech studio responsible for 2012’s Silent Hill: Downpour is “under review” and may in fact be closed just 3 years after the studio was opened.

Eurogamer (via GamesIndustry International) reported on Monday that Vatra owner Kuju Entertainment is considering closing the studio though it insists no decision has been made at this point.

A statement from Kuju reads: “The new management team at Kuju have been conducting a strategic review of all aspects of the business, as part of this process the on-going business activities of the Vatra studio are currently under review, however, at this stage no decisions have yet been made.”

Danny Wheatley, formerly of Eidos-forerunner Domark Software, and Gary Bracey, formerly of ‘90s stalwart Ocean Software, were brought on as CEO and commercial director of Kuju respectively in June. This review of Vatra is a result of the new management taking over.

Western studios that have taken on the burden of trying to revamp and renew Japanese properties have not fared particularly well over the past decade. Sweden’s GRIN was shut down after its renewal of Capcom’s Bionic Commando failed to grapple into people’s hearts. US studio Double Helix made its debut in 2008 with Silent Hill: Homecoming and has since worked only on licensed titles. Canada’s Capcom Vancouver, the studio formerly known as Blue Castle responsible for Dead Rising 2, saw its staff cut by 7 percent earlier in July. It’s rough out there.

Vatra did not have a very good chance though. Studio head Matthew Seymour abandoned Vatra in 2011 well into Downpour’s development. Konami also showed paltry support for the game ahead of its spring 2012 release, with little advertising beyond the release of a buggy compilation of past games called Silent Hill HD Collection.

It didn’t have to be this way though. Another Western-developer in charge of a formerly Japanese franchise is Mercurysteam, stewards of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series. Konami threw its full weight behind Mercurysteam, brining in Metal Gear studio Kojima Productions to assist on Lords of Shadows’ production values and promotion. That studio was rewarded with swift sales, strong critical feedback, and the opportunity to make two new games, Nintendo 3DS’ Castlevania: Lords of Shadow—Mirror of Fate and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Had Vatra been given more support from Konami, it’s possible Silent Hill: Downpour would have sold better, and Vatra’s value to Kuju wouldn’t be in question.