What will become of the publisher once it’s most creative mind departs?
It’s been an uproarious year thus far. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out and didn’t suck – in fact, it’s one of the best games of the past several years. Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata, responsible for so many amazing memories and accomplishments, tragically passed away. Sony continued its dominance with the PS4 despite a surprisingly tame reception in Japan. Microsoft continues to push back with a solid holiday season line-up despite being behind in sales. And wouldn’t you know it but even The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy 15 will be out in our lifetimes with both releasing next year.
However, arguably the biggest story of 2015 has been the split between Konami and Metal Gear Solid series creator Hideo Kojima. Despite Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain almost being out (at this time of writing) and garnering multitudes of early Game of the Year nominations, the saga of Kojima’s departure was one of the most surreal yet visceral tales of the year.
"For any Metal Gear Solid fan, that basically means we may never see a Konami game with the legendary director’s stamp of approval, much less with the epic scale or vision that Metal Gear Solid 5 pushes for."
You would think Konami would be smart to keep Kojima on, if only for the fact that he’s been the most consistent visionary at the company for years. Besides effectively putting the company on the console war map with Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation One and revolutionizing his blend of stealth action and cinematic presentation in Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, Kojima (along with his studio) was also responsible for the FOX Engine. This currently powers Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer franchise and will likely continue to be used in the years to come.
As if the success of the Metal Gear series as a whole wasn’t enough, Kojima was also headlining the resurrection of Silent Hill. Silent Hills signaled a hotly anticipated collaboration between Kojima and Guillermo del Toro and it could be argued that the short, PS4-exclusive demo P.T. revived interest in the franchise all on its own. Why would Konami ever think about getting rid of him, even with the delays on Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and the bloated budget it incurred or the unusually pathetic workplace culture that the publisher enforces?
Whatever the reasons may be, Konami just won’t be the same without Kojima. For any Metal Gear Solid fan, that basically means we may never see a Konami game with the legendary director’s stamp of approval, much less with the epic scale or vision that Metal Gear Solid 5 pushes for. From a practical point of view, one has to wonder – what is Konami without Kojima?
Pro Evolution Soccer, despite its consistent quality and changes, hasn’t really made a dent on the sports game market like EA’s FIFA series. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, a disappointing sequel to a successful reboot (of sorts), was the last major game to come out of that franchise in a while.
"Pro Evolution Soccer, despite its consistent quality and changes, hasn’t really made a dent on the sports game market like EA’s FIFA series."
Konami has also done a fabulous job of effectively murdering a number of its other franchises including Bomberman (which hasn’t seen any significant releases since Hudson Soft was absorbed in 2012), Suikoden and even Silent Hill (name a single, original title from that franchise that’s been great in the past decade, much less on previous gen consoles). At this rate, you have to wonder if there’s anything that can keep the company going, much less any reason that gamers have to care about Konami after Kojima’s departure.
Sure, there will be other Metal Gear games to release in the coming days even without Kojima’s involvement. Konami may actually reduce its focus on big budget console gaming market and emphasize mobile game development given the success of titles like Dragon Collection. When you consider that Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain costs $80 million to produce, not including marketing and distribution, it could be a long while before Konami actually makes its money back on the same.
Mobile gaming, on the other hand, will be a much safer investment for the company in the short term with $1 million budgets offering instant returns. The gaming trend in Japan also seems to be leaning more towards mobile and handheld gaming, as evidenced by slow sales of the PS4 and its games and the continued success of Nintendo (despite the 3DS selling relatively less than the original DS thus far). The question then is what will become of Konami’s efforts in countries outside of Japan. People can only play Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain for so long.
"It’s time to accept that this has been the company’s identity for some time now – a machine with no more room for grand, risky AAA titles – and that Hideo Kojima’s efforts have been the exception more than the rule thus far."
Either way it decides to go, Konami’s future won’t be in jeopardy any time soon, even if later projects and mobile developments don’t quite pan out. Look at Square Enix – despite the failure of Final Fantasy XIV prior to A Realm Reborn, the pathetically low sales of Final Fantasy XIII sequels, long dev cycles for Final Fantasy 15 and Kingdom Hearts 3 and several mobile games which ranged from successful to downright shitty (we haven’t forgotten you, All The Bravest), it bounced back in tremendous fashion.
Then again, it still had a number of successful Western projects like Hitman and Tomb Raider even if the returns didn’t match expectations. If Square Enix didn’t go down despite many terrible mistakes over a short period of time, Konami should be fine playing it safe.
You could argue that it’s a shame how Konami has been reduced to this state after decades of stellar games. However, it’s time to accept that this has been the company’s identity for some time now – a machine with no more room for grand, risky AAA titles – and that Hideo Kojima’s efforts have been the exception more than the rule thus far.
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.