Now that the dust has settled, for the most part, on the whole drama surrounding Konami and Hideo Kojima, it feels like a pretty decent time to see what the future is for Konami and its franchises, including Metal Gear. However, to understand their future, one has to remember and keep in mind its past and what’s come to pass in the spotlight, recently.
Konami’s Past Operations
A lot of the things you can say about Konami’s past as a video games production and manufacturing outfit are some of the same things you can say about a lot of companies at the time; you could get away with a lot more because the audiences weren’t as large and the internet didn’t connect all of them. You didn’t have to spend as much money on sequels because development had a foundation of stories, characters, in-game resources and staff. Arcade to console ports were easier to cheap out on because everyone understood the technological gap was pretty big. Gaming was more of a novelty than a popular culture staple. The hype train was limited to how much money companies were willing to put towards advertising campaigns and the agencies they trusted to handle them. Movie licensed games were easier to get away with cashing in on.
This fit right in line with what I think Konami’s method of operation was and they did very well for it. Konami, in my opinion, cherishes a sort of ratio between cash spent and time spent when doing anything. Of course, any company would want a good return on their cash and time spent but it would appear that the company philosophy on this is incredibly rigid and, regardless of the end result, adheres to this almost religiously. A great example is the series of games pictured above: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade-style beat-’em-ups. Konami struck gold when they released the first title to arcades and released games that followed that exact trend for several games. To my knowledge, there was two arcade titles, two NES games, two SNES games, and a Sega Genesis title: all of them sold like crazy. They even made remasters and remakes of the titles later on which did little to really build on the games or change anything up; they were capitalizing on nostalgia and little else.
The point that I’m getting at is that they have a long history of doing the following with their games: make as large a return as possible on as little investment as possible. The thing with how they were in the past with video games is that they had a lot of lines in the water that succeeded, more often than not, in some way, so if one project took some time and was guaranteed a huge return, they had little to sacrifice by letting it go on if the project took a long time or required a lot of money, so long as Konami was guaranteed a return.
Things have changed, since then, though: Silent Hill is slowly going downhill and has been, arguably, for some time; Metal Gear has had its swan song in the public eye, awaiting its destruction at some other team’s hands; Suikoden has always been a push-and-pull operation that never really got a lot of slack, especially later on in the franchise; Dance Dance Revolution has always eaten up a lot of money in licensing; Winning Eleven has always been one of those franchises that was always requiring a great deal of investment; Castlevania plays a delicate balancing act between cheap knock-offs of Symphony of the Night and new material; I don’t know much about Yu Gi Oh! but it seems to be the same idea as a sports franchise by repackaging the same thing over and over again on the yearly; aside from these properties, Konami has done very little and even between these properties, those that are easy to cash in on see a lot more releases. It’s been this way for almost 16 years. To make anything of note without rabid criticism and sales figures dipping in these franchise, you have to spend a lot and when you don’t have a lot else going on, each larger investment hurts the company more and more.
Between Kojima’s being completely alienated from the company, the cancellation of Silent Hills, and the talk of the change of direction in the company as far as what they will start putting money into more and we see Konami almost molting, burning away what it feels is useless to them and disregarding the criticism they took in for it because they know that this is something that would bring the company back into the direction they were in when they were extremely successful and profitable in making video games. Tons of lines in the water, especially when each line is easy to keep in the water and rakes in all kinds of profit; this time, though, if they ditch video games as a whole, there would be less need to make the periodical large investment to get the huge return.
Financially, one can’t blame Konami for making some of the moves they’ve made; if they’re ditching video games entirely, they could likely care less about the image they’re leaving behind because, where they’re going, it will likely not affect them that much. Waiting through years of non-profitable terms just to have one super successful year is not good business practice.
However, in the field of professionalism and for the sake of their employees; that’s where Konami has truly failed and based on statements given, in the past, by former employees and news snippets that don’t always stay online, this seems to be something Konami has practicing for a very long time, in the name of profits.
I take a very solid stance on the following expression: “don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!” I’m perfectly fine with Konami bowing out. While they’re responsible for some of the heaviest hitting franchises in gaming and given us all something great it feels like, after all these years, I’m consuming something that took advantage of and shamed a great number of their employees and their resources. I kind of suspected this kind of thing for a while and, hence, was selective in what I purchased from them. They always felt a little disconnected from the industry and way too capitalist for my liking.
Konami could still make a huge amount of bank on their digital entertainment branch, though: fans of their gaming franchises are going to dwindle and they won’t get much from their franchises and milking them outside of gaming. How, might you ask? Selling their properties. Doesn’t sound like them? You’re right. A smart company, with the mindset of Konami, would stand to create contracts where they still get a portion of profits on the games themselves and the merchandise sold globally. It would allow developers to grow these franchises before they die and Konami could still make a chunk of change from this. Let’s use Metal Gear as a great example in that Sony – where Kojima Productions is being housed for the time being – could buy the rights to the franchise, allow Kojima to create games in that franchise again, should he choose, and Konami would still reap benefits from a deal, should Konami write in stipulations to the purchase, which they would no doubt do.
I don’t think Konami is an extraordinarily evil company, per se; just overtly methodical and overly greedy. And Konami won’t end if they bow out from gaming. Hopefully, if they leave gaming, they’ll fork over their franchises to companies that care just a little bit more about games and their customers.