The Hidden and Unknown is the latest in a long line of absurdly expensive games, and it may just be the last.
The Hidden and Unknown is the debut release of developer ProX. The visual novel advertises itself as a story-rich visual novel that delves into mysterious social phenomena that are “crucial for the evolution of our civilization.” However, the main thing drawing attention to the game is its price.
The Hidden and Unknown is available exclusively through Steam with an asking price of $2,000. Here’s what the game actually is, why it costs so much, and why the expensive game gimmick should be put on hold for a while.
First, The Hidden and Unknown is an actual product, albeit worth nothing of its $2,000 price tag. While it talks a big game about its groundbreaking social commentary, The Hidden and Unknown can be generally described as a very short visual novel that parrots online hypermasculine “isms.” In the opening prelude, erroneously titled as an apologue, developer ProX claims that the proliferation of plastic products has resulted in a large-scale swap of gender roles between men and women.
After that, the game switches to a sparse visual novel about a man named Brian, who experiences everyday life as a child. The scenes are oddly specific enough to imply that it’s an autobiography of ProX, with arguments over shared video game accounts and giving up in a game of hide and seek. The connection to the prelude is that this young protagonist supposedly grows up and creates a time-traveling artificial intelligence that somehow solves humanity’s infertility. The premise is certainly creative.
The game’s central message is tightly tied to hypermasculine self-help creators, who often use social media content to prey on insecure men. Watch enough YouTube, and this kind of rhetoric will eventually pop up for free. All The Hidden and Unknown would usually amount to is a curious footnote in the Andrew Tate era of internet peacocking. The real reason people are really talking about it is the price.
Why does The Hidden and Unknown cost $2,000?
The price tag is the only real notable point of The Hidden and Unknown, but even that isn’t quite as edgy as the developer likely envisions.
I Am Rich was an iPhone app released in 2008 that sold for the price of $999. In the less than 24 hours it was available, only eight people purchased it. When opened, the app displayed a single rich-affirming statement with a complimentary typo. The only reason to buy the app was to show off that you had the cash to do so.
The Hidden and Unknown is essentially the same thing, but instead of owning up to it, it tries to obscure its trashiness as a political statement, and not even a particularly interesting one. It’s the game development equivalent of putting a three-cent CSGO trading card up for max price. But unlike Steam market purchases, this one is wrapped up in a plastic-induced gender apocalypse.
Another sin of The Hidden and Unknown’s price tag is that it isn’t even real. The creator himself has stated that he intends people to refund the game once they’re done with its content, which can be consumed entirely within the two-hour limit for Steam refunds. Nearly every player who buys it is really just giving Valve a very short-term $2,000 loan.
Finally, the sticker shock is dampened by the fact that there are actual Steam games that cost a similar amount of money. Sorting the entire store by price reveals that TH&U is in second place below a poorly-made Unity platformer. It can at least be proud of its rank right above a 102-game bundle of anime porn games. Anyone looking for actual entertainment at that price point can drop thousands on simulator bundles without batting an eye, and they’ll likely get more than two hours of enjoyment out of it.
So as for why The Hidden and Unknown, of all games, demands a $2,000 price tag, the answer is that it’s really the only reason to talk about it at all. The developer, who likely started the project with the intent of it actually being something and gave up 2% of the way in, knows this. In a way, ProX has succeeded. What he failed at is making anyone actually discuss this game beyond ridiculing its initial premise.