Konami, Kojima, and the Future
The gaming world was shocked recently with the sudden news that video game developer and publisher Konami had made changes to their executive board members listing, taking off the prolific Hideo Kojima and other members of Kojima Productions. Following this, Konami started to remove “A Hideo Kojima Game” from marketing materials for Metal Gear Solid, and they shuttered Kojima Productions, renaming the L.A. branch to the generic Konami Los Angeles Studios. While an anonymous source told Gamespot that there was some bad blood, I feel that the doom and gloom proclamations are a bit overstated. Let’s speculate a little on the future.
We’ll take what is known for certain, instead of projecting expectations off non-verified sources. These anonymous reportings could very well be true, rendering my speculation pointless. I still feel it is of value to look at this from just the officially-known data.
It’s no secret that a large portion of Konami’s profits are due directly to Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid has been a hot seller and console pusher in the past, with even the ill-received Ground Zeroes selling over 1 million units. That would make me think twice about severing ties in a way that burns bridges if I were on the Konami side of the equation. While it is true that Kojima and other members of Kojima Productions were taken off the executive listing at Konami, they were not necessarily fired because they have become contractors there for the time being.
While this could just mean that that the staff is on call to assist with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as it gets out the doors, I feel they are keeping this as a working business relationship for more than just that one title.
A Konami representative speaking to IGN commented on the change:
“As we have already announced, we are shifting our production structure to a headquarters-controlled system, in order to establish a steadfast operating base capable of responding to the rapid market changes that surround our digital entertainment business. Konami Digital Entertainment (including Mr. Kojima), will continue to develop and support Metal Gear products. Please look forward to future announcements.”
(Emphasis added by author)
We already know after the joint press release from Konami and Kojima that Konami will be continuing the Metal Gear series and has started to look for new staff to do so. The above quote implies that Konami will still be working with Kojima as a consultant, even if direct production of the games are not in his hands. Let’s face it, Mr. Kojima has wanted to step away from Metal Gear Solid for some time and this seems to finally be his chance to leave the helm.
There is the matter of Kojima’s name being removed from marketing materials for Metal Gear Solid on Konami’s product pages for the games and their online sales fronts. On the surface this seems dire, but if looked at from a business and branding perspective, it can make more sense and not seem as hostile a move as some are making it out to be
At this point Kojima is a brand. He has made a name for himself with his writing and direction on many critically acclaimed IPs, and he has pushed the technical boundaries of gaming hardware for decades. The Fox Engine is a continuation of this brand legacy, and I feel all this gives Kojima a lot of leeway in the industry. Removing his name from Konami properties frees up Hideo Kojima to assert himself as his own brand in the future. This, to me, is a win-win. Konami can assert ownership of the Metal Gear franchise, and Kojima can go on to more freely assert his creative influence outside Konami projects.
I have no doubt in my mind that Hideo Kojima and his team will continue to make games. While it’s true Konami has closed up their Kojima Productions house, this just leaves the door open for Kojima and team to open their own independent operation, possibly even under the same name. They can produce their own IPs, consult with other studios on games (i.e. Metal Gear), and branch out as they so choose. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see movies come from Hideo in such an scenario.
This does seem to leave the future a tad more bright and cheery than previously speculated, but there is a hangnail of sorts in my mind. So far all official talk has not spoken of Kojima’s collaboration with Guillermo del Toro on the upcoming Silent Hills project that was teased last year in the well marketed P.T.
Why do these events even have to put a hitch in those plans? What do we know for certain at this point? That Kojima is not an executive at Konami anymore but is a contractor that will work with Konami on future projects. Kojima is slated to be director on Silent Hills, and you do not need to be on the executive board of a company to be the director of a game. I see no reason why this arrangement has to end, as Kojima seemed very excited to work on Silent Hills.
Maybe it’s just shock at the news. Maybe I am just an optimist and reading too much into business decisions… but I don’t feel the future is all doom and gloom here. Granted this is all speculation on my part from limited intel, but I feel this does not need to spell the end of certain properties we have been looking forward to. In fact the future could be better than ever now for Kojima and crew as they are now free to embark on any voyages they want without having to answer to Konami corporate interests.
It will be interesting to hear what comes of this in the future, and we’ll keep you posted here at Super Nerd Land.