The History of Kojima’s Struggle With Konami

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Kojima is quite easily a super star of the video game world. He implements his own personality in his games, he has revived somewhat dead franchises, and other developers take inspiration from him. He also brought to life one of the most successful game franchises that have ever existed, Metal Gear. Yet all of this almost never happened because video games were a last ditch effort to simply be creative.

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Kojima went to college for economics and spent most of his life fending off people that didn’t “believe” in the same dreams as him. He wanted to be creative rather it is through music, literature, or movies. His parents pushed it aside, and the social norm was to get an education with a good job and be wealthy. The idea of working in video games was laughable. Even as an economics major Kojima felt the idea was initially stupid. The industry was not large at all, and it could all come crashing down at any moment. (It almost did during the historic “Video Game Crash of 1983”)

Yet Kojima was having no success anywhere else. He had written short stories and novels that gained absolutely no traction, often times being rejected by publishers. Even magazine rejected his stories for being too long. He was a part of a band, but it was mostly for a hobby and none of his mates had a similar ambition as him to make it into a career. Then there is of course his inspiration to be a movie maker.

One thing that most Kojima fans will know is that he wanted to be a film director long before getting into video games. A lack of resources at the time and rather low acceptance in the industry made it nearly impossible for him to get his foot in the door. This is when he ended up at Konami and, while a great achievement, he wasn’t too thrilled for the longest time. It was much like a “next best thing” scenario, and his family often enhanced that feeling by downplaying his “wasted talent” at Konami.

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When he first started at Konami in the late 1980’s, he was shoved to small projects he didn’t care for. His first titles were sequels to games on the MSX in a division of Konami that solely focused on that console. Kojima hated it for a lack of technology, but his inability to properly code and create games meant he had no power, plus any mistakes were easily blamed on him. Yet he took this in stride, constantly offering ideas to improve games and coming up with new creative adventures.

It wouldn’t be long before Konami gave him the opportunity to create Metal Gear. He was actually asked to take over the project already in development, and he didn’t like where it was heading so  he changed the core mechanics that lead into what the franchise is known for today.

Hardware limitations were a nagging complaint for Kojima, but he utilized a new “sneaking” mentality to work around them. The game’s story also changed to be about Solid Snake sneaking out of a facility and learning about nuclear weapons, taking inspiration from film, personal stories, and other inspirations. The nuclear weapons idea stems from Kojima’s own parents living in Japan during WWII and dealing with the bombing attacks. Kojima has noted that stories from his father more than inspire him to this day. The game would release in 1987 on the MSX2.

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Yet complications arise with Konami still. The game didn’t sell as well as other titles from the company, such as Castlevania, and Konami also took liberty in porting the game to the NES (Nintendo Entertainment Console) without Kojima’s help. This lead to poor translations, a lack of a final boss fight, and many other problems Kojima has openly criticized.  Being that Kojima preferred the Nintendo console at the time, it seems a bit strange to make this move and still not allow him to create a game on the console of his choice…

Kojima still went on to create an all new adventure titled Snatcher. It was here that Kojima got full control to really express his true talents. The game revolves around post-apocalyptic world where a detective has to hunt down Cyborgs (Snatchers) that kill their victims, clone their identity, and then take their place in society. The game was praised for its similarities to movies, great story telling, and being a true visual novel experience. Yet this game too wouldn’t be a massive success.

Konami simply had no faith in going all-in with Kojima just yet and ventured off on their own to make a Metal Gear follow up titled “Snakes Revenge.” Eventually Kojima would meet with a person on the team and request to make a “proper follow up.” This lead to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The game featured many enhancements, but was ultimately left to be exclusive to the MSX2 with no ports outside of Japan.

 

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This didn’t stop Kojima though; instead he went on to work with new technologies. Games were getting better as he was capable of adding voice work to his titles, and finally the PlayStation 1 released. Kojima greatly appreciated the console for technology purposes so he found himself once again with a return to Metal Gear with Metal Gear Solid in 1998. The game was a massive leap in the series bringing 3-D graphics, a bigger story, and great voice talent. The series would finally boom to the greatness it deserved!

From here Kojima would be attached to all future Metal Gear plans, envisioning many games and pushing the boundaries of all technology that stood in his way. He worked with teams to port several games in the franchise to new platforms, and he helped create several spin-offs including the Acid games on PSP and Metal Gear Rising with Platinum Games. He would rarely venture off to entirely new projects, but he did get the opportunity with some titles including Zone of the Enders, Boktai, and some intellectual property adventures.

Kojima has always stated that each Metal Gear would be his last, but according to rumors it seems MGSV will finally be the true end to his adventure with the series. Yet looking at his history, was this always destined to be the case? Kojima seems to have been fighting for a position throughout his career with Konami and has always been pushed aside in some regard. It wasn’t until April 1st, 2011 that he was finally promoted to a worthwhile position within the company, but it didn’t take long for Kojima to not be thrilled in the position. He constantly states that he rather create games instead of focus on the business side of things.

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(Image Source: ivibitesphotography.com)

“At the age of 40, I’m trying to screen off the business aspects of gaming and concentrate on developing great games. I shouldn’t say this in front of the management at Konami, but in the future I don’t want to pay attention to money, demographic data, etc – I want to become freelance and create the games I always dreamt of. Creative work needs strong finances, but the business of the game industry are slowly burning me out.” (EDGE Magazine (136): 69–74. 2004-04-22.)

Perhaps he is moving on to bigger things? Konami has a subsidiary for pretty much everything they do. I’m not kidding, you can look it up. Slot machines, card games, everything has its own little portion of the company. “Digital Entertainment” is just one of the many, and perhaps they are giving Kojima his dream by opening a movie side? They already helped produce a Silent Hill movie and back in 2008 Kojima revealed plans to work on a Metal Gear film, but as of now nothing has come of it. A good way to launch that would be to bring it back to light around the same time a very popular game is releasing (MGSV), and Konami has already noted that the franchise will continue in some regard.

Yet that doesn’t seem likely as Konami is set on removing Kojima’s name from everything. He is no longer listed as a company member, being removed the same day he was added years ago, April 1st. His studio has been taken over, all social media linking to him has been removed, and his name no longer exists on the franchise that has kept Konami relevant in the gaming world for decades. This seems like Konami is simply pushing a reset button, forcing Kojima to remember where he started.

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So perhaps his freelancing dream is coming to frustration instead? Could Kojima be taking his crew to work on titles for Sony? Microsoft? Maybe even EA or Activision?

Kojima has grown over the years and his nature to lend his talent to other games is nothing new. He has worked with Nintendo, he was credited with helping Naughty Dog, he lectures about game engines, and his talent helped revive Castlevania. He was also in the mix of revamping Silent Hills, and based off an early “teaser” he was going to blow people’s minds with it. So much is true when every board discussing Kojima’s departure are questioning, what will happen to Silent Hills?! It seems a bit odd that Kojima’s first full adventure away from Metal Gear is with Silent Hills, and suddenly he is ousted by Konami since he is no longer attached to Metal Gear.

Another good question is what happens with Fox Engine? Kojima Productions has been working on it for a few years and it seems to be the most realistic engine out there. Konami has removed Kojima’s name from all assets, but the Fox Engine is still branded across them all.

While the relationship with Konami seems to be over, the future of Kojima and the fans seems much brighter. Konami has never really had anything going for them over the past 10 years. Anything good that came out of Konami in the past decade either had a Kojima Productions logo attached to it, or went by the title of PES (Pro Evolution Soccer). During my trips to E3 over several years this became even more relevant. During one trip their booth consisted of a behind closed doors presentation of MGSV, PES, Castlevania, and whole area dedicated to casual mobile titles. During a follow up year Konami hardly had a presence at all, only showcasing a game behind closed doors in a very small booth, the game again being MGSV. Their entire focus seems to be shifting towards the casual market, with little to no emphasis on AAA titles, and they utilized Metal Gear to draw attention to them every time.

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In my opinion, this is what led them into forcing Kojima to stick with Metal Gear. The influx of sales, the branding they get, everything makes Metal Gear more important. The long cycles probably didn’t help, which may have lead to the rising “power struggle” between Kojima and Konami. Branching off into other projects seemed to jump back in time, Kojima once again fighting to gain new projects and expand his creative power. New projects are risky, and facing facts Konami doesn’t have the greatest line-up to revamp. Yet Kojima was doing just that, bringing Castlevania to life, and soon Silent Hills. He also showed interest in Zone of the Enders, and had a side project revolving around a Snatcher entertainment series.

Now, if rumors are to be regarded as true, Kojima is free from it. Yes not having him as part of Metal Gear will totally suck, and Konami may very well spiral that series down a toilet, but Kojima is a legend. He has the name, he has proven to be the force that kept Konami Digital Entertainment afloat all these years, and is proven to make great games. Now he has the opportunity to do what he wanted all along, freelance.

Imagine if Kojima has the opportunity to gain rights to his own studio again, Kojima Productions, and instead of being forced to work with Konami he can go anywhere. Make an Assassins Creed for Ubisoft, a Star Wars Title for EA, or maybe even a whole new title exclusively for Sony? The possibilities are endless now and given the right studio support he will create the same amazing titles with his own creative power behind it.

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Kojima has stated it time and time again that he wants to walk away from Metal Gear. He now has the opportunity to do just that and we might possibly be capable of seeing what he is truly made of. Is Konami smart in erasing his name from all assets? No, but that is their choice. I mean come on, they already tried to take the series on without him attached and failed both times. Facing facts it is hard to walk away from a company that gave you your first opportunity, especially if you grew within the company. It’s also hard to walk away from a franchise that you created and has become as powerful as Metal Gear. Yet, if Konami is the one that took the step to walk away then things may be easier for Kojima to move on.

Kojima grew up as a creator and lives by creating new things. He has a passion that not many people can achieve, and he doesn’t let anything hold this power back. This talent is very rare within one company, and Konami may have churned through a few others already, but true talent will never die. He will be hard to replace, but wherever he may end up can be absolutely good news for the fans of not only Metal Gear, but Hideo Kojima.

“The DNA I created in Metal Gear Solid will continue to live on in other games,” Kojima stated. “You can already see it in Splinter Cell and Syphon Filter – they’re parts of my legacy.” (Hey Sony. Syphon Filter. Kojima. Hint Hint.)

 

 

 

 

Sources For Various Facts:

Polygon

MetalGearSolid.com

Yahoo Archieve

Edge Magazine