Could the maker of Metal Gear, Silent Hill, Castlevania, and more, ever win over its fans again?
The previous generation was a rough one for Japanese third party publishers; faced with the triple onslaught of an en masse migration of Japanese audiences mobile devices, the struggles of HD development, and the rise of western development for consoles, Japanese developers found themselves hopelessly outmatched as they tried to keep up, ultimately mostly disappointing long time fans due to misguided games and entries in long running series that were made with some attempt to appeal to a larger, global audience.
After all, last generation was the generation we got Final Fantasy 13, Resident Evil 6, and the 2006 reboot of Sonic the Hedgehog; it was the generation that Castlevania was farmed out to a western developer as a hack and slash that bore little resemblance to the original games, and Silent Hill was used as a license for a Diablo style co-op loot game. There is little wonder so many proclaimed Japan to be a spent force, inasmuch as console game development goes.
But the last few years have seen the country roaring back to prominence in console gaming, thanks in part to the market domination of PlayStation and Nintendo, and seen major Japanese third parties begin to make inroads with disillusioned fans again. Look at Capcom- after multiple games that ended up alienating their fans, they’ve been releasing quality products that have been winning those very same fans over. Resident Evil fans got Resident Evil 7, widely acclaimed as a return to form for the franchise; Street Fighter 5 had a very disappointing launch, but Capcom has since turned it around and made it an enviable fighting game, best exemplified by the recent relaunch under the ‘Arcade Edition’ brand. After years of ignoring their former mascot Mega Man, Capcom announced a brand new entry in the series, due this year, as well as multiple collections of his previous outings to celebrate his past. And, of course, their biggest success this generation, and on road to being their biggest success ever, is Monster Hunter World, which has won fans over worldwide. After a generation of struggling to win the hearts of gamers worldwide, Capcom now seems to be doing so with ease- they may be still struggling as far as profits go, but with the recent successes they have had, it’s only a matter of time before they manage to turn that around.
"After a generation of struggling to win the hearts of gamers worldwide, Capcom now seems to be doing so with ease- they may be still struggling as far as profits go, but with the recent successes they have had, it’s only a matter of time before they manage to turn that around."
Then there is Square Enix- a generation of focusing only on Final Fantasy, and no new console Kingdom Hearts or Dragon Quest game, led to widespread umbrage towards the company- but a wonderful relaunch of Final Fantasy 14 with A Realm Reborn, as well as the launch of Final Fantasy 15, the impending launches of Dragon Quest 11 and Kingdom Hearts 3, the announcement of the long requested Final Fantasy 7 Remake, as well as of The World Ends With You, plus mid tier projects like Star Ocean, Secret of Mana, Bravely Default, and Octopath, have all led to the publisher becoming a favorite again. Yes, there are people who will argue about their project management, or the merits of each new Final Fantasy game, until the heat death of the universe, but Square’s brand and standing is no longer in the gutter like it was just a few years ago. And it helps that the company has been making a lot of money, too!
Then there is Sega- Sega has historically struggled since it transitioned into being a third party, and I have to admit, its in house development is still largely scattershot, and more miss than hit. But as a publisher, Sega have been thriving over the last few years- they’ve published so many fantastic games. Alien Isolation, Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, the Football Manager series, the Total War series, everything Atlus does- including Persona 5, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Radiant Historia, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Etrian Odyssey, plus the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei 5, Persona Dancing, Yakuza 6, and Valkyria Chronicles 4. Even the long troubled Sonic franchise actually saw a good game with Sonic Mania. Sega, again, may still be struggling in a lot of ways- but as a publisher, they’re starting to become a major force to contend with in the console market.
"Sega, again, may still be struggling in a lot of ways- but as a publisher, they’re starting to become a major force to contend with in the console market."
The question is, if Capcom, Square Enix, and Sega could come back from their nadirs, could Konami as well? Konami’s case is curious- the company is actually making more in profit than ever before, but as far as we are concerned as video game players, they’ve burned all bridges in the last few years. Castlevania went to the gutter, with multiple bad entries and misguided attempts at reboots, the same happened with Silent Hill, where we also had the added ignominy of being teased with a wonderful Hideo Kojima led reboot, before it was scuppered; speaking of Kojima, Konami drove him away after a widely publicized acrimonious split, putting Metal Gear Solid 5 to the market before it had a chance to be properly completed (and give long running fans actual closure). Properties like Contra and Suikoden have been ignored for years. Hudson was closed down, and their catalog mostly left to rot. On the whole, it seemed as though Konami was largely done with the gaming market.
But on the other hand, it seems as though they are wavering on that decision, if it was ever made, in the last few years. Super Bomberman R for the Nintendo Switch was a pleasant surprise, a revival of a classic property released for a budget price, and then supported with excellent free post launch content and updates that not only addressed issues the game had had at launch, but added oodles of content and features to it for no price. Metal Gear Survive looks… misguided, at the best, but seems to indicate the company still has some interest in traditional AAA game development.
Look, Konami has one of the most beloved catalogs in gaming- Metal Gear, Castlevania, Contra, Silent Hill, Suikoden, Bomberman, and that’s just off the top of my head- all beloved franchises that, if treated with the proper care and respect, and releasing new games, would win fans over. Are you telling me a brand new proper Castlevania, or a new Contra, or a Silent Hill in the vein of the famous P.T. demo, or just a new big budget Suikoden, wouldn’t win fans over and command attention from everybody? Konami may have burned a lot of bridges and pissed off a lot of fans- but they did that by not respecting their own IP which won them those fans to begin with. If they started treating these franchises with respect, are you telling me people won’t pay attention? Look at how many fans (albeit ones who are still cautious) they began to court just with Super Bomberman R– and that’s not even one of their bigger franchises.
"If Konami started treating their franchises with respect, are you telling me people won’t pay attention? Look at how many fans (albeit ones who are still cautious) they began to court just with Super Bomberman R– and that’s not even one of their bigger franchises."
So Konami could absolutely begin to make amends with their fans again- if they do right by them. Now, there may be some who say, they don’t have any obligation to do right by their fans, especially since they are earning so much money anyway. And, fine, okay- but their fans then have as much of a right to hate them as Konami have a right to ignore their fans. That’s how the “right” to do anything works, it applies to everyone.
The thing, though, is that gamers have short memories, and Konami has incredible franchises- if Konami started treating those franchises with respect, and started putting out brand new games in them that are worthy of the long history of those IP? Well, I wager those fans would begin to come back to them.
And you know what? I hope that happens. Not because I particularly care for Konami, but more because seeing a brand new, proper, big budget Castlevania, or Silent Hill, or Metal Gear, or any Suikoden? Damn, I would be so down for that.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.