The game studio that brought myself and millions of other gamers around the world so many great games seems, over the past few years, to have lost its way. It’s undeniable that the gaming landscape has changed over the last three decades, so a company that wants to stay relevant to its fan base has to change with the times, or be left behind. But the drastic changes that Konami has chosen to stay profitable and relevant seem to be going in the wrong direction. If they are not careful, they may just end up ruining what was once a powerhouse on the gaming landscape all because they got a taste of what the free-to-play market can do for a single game.
While the lack of any notable game releases in the last five years or so (MGS V: GZ and Castlevania games from MercurySteam notwithstanding), it did seem curious to me that while other large gaming studios were putting out some fairly decent games, one of the industry’s most notable studio really hadn’t made as much as a peep, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought that was strange. However, what really piqued my interest was when news came out about how terrible the working conditions were becoming for Konami employees as well as all of the reports regarding Hideo Kojima leaving Konami over the last six months began to start surfacing in the gaming press.
Kojima-san is synonymous with Konami and I would never think in a million years that the day would come when he would ever leave there. Even still, the more I read and the more reports that started surfacing about him actually leaving such a revered studio was just mind-boggling to me. How could there be a Konami without the man who created Metal Gear?
Thinking back on the last few years, I guess the writing was on the wall and I must have been in some form of denial about the direction that Konami was headed in. If you remember back in early May of this year, a key executive at Konami was quoted as saying that the company will “pursue mobile games aggressively” going forward, and that smartphones will be considered as its “main platform.” While the focus to mobile gaming in the Japanese market has been very pronounced over the last five years or so, I can kind of understand why Konami would see this as a viable position to shift the company’s focus, especially since they were so successful with the mobile games Power Pro and Winning Eleven. But what about those of us in the western markets who grew up playing some of the greatest games ever to hit early consoles?
Konami fans have been clamoring to see a return of some of gaming’s most revered titles for some time, but all fan requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. For instance, a group of very dedicated Suikoden fans, collectively known as the Suikoden Revival Movement, have worked for years to convince Konami that there is enough interest for the studio to pursue developing another game in the beloved JRPG series. Unfortunately, after three years of activity, Konami seemingly isn’t convinced and still no new Suikoden news has surfaced. It would seem that even the loud voices of some of gaming’s most ardent fans still isn’t enough to give them what they want most. If these fans don’t move Konami, what chance does Kojima-san have at getting them to see the light?
To be totally fair to Konami, all of the brouhaha surrounding their separation from Kojima-San could absolutely be all his fault. The thing is, Kojima-san has said absolutely nothing in public about why he and Konami have had such a rocky relationship as of late. Maybe all of this has been building and Konami decided that they have had enough. You only have to play a Hideo Kojima game to realize that he is and absolute perfectionist and will not release a game unless it is perfect in his eyes.
On the other hand, maybe having had such early success in the free-to-play market, Konami wanted to inject micro-transactions into a game that has no business having micro-transactions, but as we know, will indeed be in the new MGS V: TPP much to Kojima-sans objections. Only time will tell what really went on behind closed doors and I, for one, can’t wait to finally find out what actually happened. I just hope that Konami can dust off its tarnished reputation and become again the game creating force that it once was.
What are your thoughts on Konami’s fall from grace? Let me know in the comments below.