What will become of the survival horror thanks to Konami’s restructuring?
It was as curious as it was sudden when the news broke that Hideo Kojima would be leaving Konami following the release of Metal Gear Soli 5: The Phantom Pain.
The Metal Gear creator and series director has had a storied history with the publisher. There’s no doubt that Metal Gear Solid has been one of the most successful titles in Konami’s history, if not its single most successful ever. From the days of the NES throughout the PSOne, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 era, Metal Gear Solid had defined Konami all throughout. Why then was Kojima leaving the company?
Considering that he wanted Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain to be his final title as a director on the franchise, it was somewhat understandable. Perhaps he just wanted a break to pursue other ventures. Of course, it was then revealed that Konami had removed Hideo Kojima’s name from all media advertising The Phantom Pain.
"While it may seem like collaboration between co-directors, it's still up to Kojima to drive the gameplay direction. It was still up to Kojima Productions to actually develop the game."
In fact, Kojima Productions seems to have been redacted from the publisher’s history – Kojima Productions Los Angeles has been renamed to Konami Los Angeles Studios, Kojima Productions Japan has been disbanded and all previous titles under development at the studio will be moved to Konami headquarters.
This is being billed as a reorganization and centralization of development duties but why remove Hideo Kojima, a contemporary developer who’s name still carries an immense amount of weight and respect (that too in an age where a Peter Molyneux or Cliff Bleszinski aren’t as relevant as a decade ago)? Whatever the situation may be, it seems that Kojima is on his way out of Konami. Even if we’ve been assured that there will be other titles in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, with Kojima as director and providing ideas (most likely on a contractual basis, which Konami will not confirm), it’s reasonable to think he’s winding down his time at the company.
Of course, none of this takes a completely different game into consideration: Silent Hills.
Silent Hills was meant to serve as a sort of reboot for the franchise, though the playable teaser (or P.T. as it’s referred to) didn’t represent final gameplay. And while famed director Guillermo del Toro is working on the project, he was only assisting Kojima who was the director. While it may seem like collaboration between co-directors, it’s still up to Kojima to drive the gameplay direction. It was still up to Kojima Productions to actually develop the game.
Now that everything is centralized to Konami and Kojima is working in far more restricted manner than before, what will become of Silent Hills? It seems that the survival horror will be delayed but will it be based on to another studio? Will Konami handle it internally? For that matter, if Kojima stays on a contracted basis, will he still contribute to the game?
"Even if Konami takes the reins for Silent Hills and has del Toro stay on, this doesn't mean we'll get Silent Hills any sooner than before. "
It won’t be as easy to replace Kojima from Silent Hills as it would for Metal Gear Solid. Firstly, Kojima was asked by Konami’s president personally to work on it. Secondly, Guillermo del Toro is working next to Kojima and while it may not appear as much at first, film crews change all the time depending on whose still at the studio and who isn’t. Remember when Vince Zampella and Jason West were fired from Infinity Ward, which led to a mass exodus of employees? Something similar can happen in blockbuster Hollywood flicks and for Del Toro, would there be enough motivation to work on a Silent Hills project without Hideo Kojima around? That’s a question that isn’t easy to answer, both on a creative and professional note.
Even if Konami takes the reins for Silent Hills and has del Toro stay on, this doesn’t mean we’ll get Silent Hills any sooner than before. If Kojima stays on a contracted basis, it will be a similar situation to Team Ico’s The Last Guardian wherein designer and director Fumito Ueda left the studio but stayed on as a consultant. The Last Guardian has been in development for about 8 years now. Silent Hills may not face as long of a delay but suffice to say, things aren’t looking great.
And all of this is enough to make you wonder where Konami will be in the next five years. The publisher doesn’t have as much success in the sports market with Pro Evolution Soccer as EA’s FIFA series – in fact, it’s not even close. Silent Hill was more or less treading water until the announcement of Silent Hills. Despite how cool Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was, it wasn’t even half as successful as Kojima’s titles. The less said about Castlevania after Lords of Shadow 2, the better. At least Dance Dance Revolution still has an audience.
Maybe the reorganization of Konami will help to rebuild it and ensure more quality releases than in years past. While we’ll refrain from thinking the worst and assuming that the Metal Gear creator will be done with the company come December, things just won’t feel the same without Kojima Productions and its main man at the helm.