You've probably already seen talk about Hideo Kojima this week. Konami not-so-quietly updated some websites and box art to remove things like "A Hideo Kojima Game" from the cover of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and GameSpot did some source-checking to get some off-the-record confirmation that Kojima and some of the senior staff of his studio, Kojima Productions, have been cut down to contract status and are expected to be completely out of Konami sometime after Phantom Pain ships in September.
I decided to do a little checking of my own, in the form of standing up, walking over to where the GameSpot people sit, and asking "hey, how solid is the source on this?" I got nods and confirmations back, which is enough for me in this specific case.
Of course, maybe Kojima and Konami's particularly worded statement today is all the confirmation you need.
Thank you for your continued patronage of KONAMI products and services.
The latest title in the METAL GEAR series,“METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN” (below, “MGSV: TPP”), will be released as planned starting on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 in North America, Latin America, and Europe, followed by Japan and Asia on Wednesday, September 2nd. Hideo Kojima will remain involved throughout.
Hideo Kojima stated, "I want to reassure fans that I am 100% involved and will continue working on METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN; I’m determined to make it the greatest game I’ve directed to date. Don’t miss it!"
In addition, KONAMI will continue to develop and distribute top-quality content in the METAL GEAR series following “MGSV: TPP.” We greatly anticipate and deeply appreciate your ongoing support for METAL GEAR.
As the next step in the series, KONAMI has already resolved to develop new “METAL GEAR”.
We will be conducting interviews for main staff to lead the development.
So there you have it? Kojima doesn't want you to miss his next/last Metal Gear game and... Konami is looking for "main staff" to run development on future Metal Gear titles. The notion of Konami wanting to continue making games in that revered franchise makes some amount of sense, but the more I think about Konami and its current treatment of video games, the more I question what form a new Metal Gear would take. Would it be a Metal Gear-shaped treadmill, for use in its health clubs? Maybe a pachinko machine that has a picture of a Hind D on it?
A number of things are capable of happening once Kojima and Konami have officially parted ways. Not to just idly speculate, but... let's idly speculate about what we could be looking at down the line.
Someone would probably step up to fund a new game studio with Kojima in the driver's seat. Microsoft could afford this. Maybe Sony could step up? I haven't seen their balance sheet, but as I understand it, the conventional wisdom about Sony, Microsoft, and money has been that Microsoft has enough to throw around to make deals happen and Sony, beleaguered by its other business units, is forced to be a bit more strategic. That's why Sony plays the "hearts and minds" game while Microsoft stomps out there and says "we've got Tomb Raider (for now)." To be fair, Microsoft has gotten a bit cuddlier and less robotic since Spencer took the reins, but you get my point. Anyway, we're getting sidetracked. It's hard to imagine what other third-party publisher would pony up the amount of cash and freedom that someone like Kojima might want to get back into the big game business. But I'm speculating. For all we know, Kojima might want to take 15 people and go make something small. I'd be all for a spiritual successor to Boktai or something. Maybe he'll finally go make a movie, like I said he should back in 1998.
Konami will probably attempt to fill its positions and give Metal Gear another go. But the company's taste for video games has soured quite a lot over the last decade. They're only spending money on the most obvious bets for them--Metal Gear and Pro Evo. The rest is mobile stuff, some of which doesn't seem to be making it out of Japan at all. It's hard to know what sort of budget a "new Metal Gear" might get. As for talent, it'd be interesting to see what sort of game Konami would make without Kojima at least lending a bit of guiding hand to the proceedings. It might be totally fine. Actually, considering the timeline of the franchise and where/when Phantom Pain seems to fall, it feels like we're getting to a point where Metal Gear could use a major change of scenery and characters. I wouldn't be shocked to see a reboot or some kind of game that takes place far after the events of MGS4, using that world as a backdrop for a new Snake clone or something. OK, now I'm just writing crappy fan fiction, I should probably move on.
It's also possible that Metal Gear could fade into the background and vanish, just like so many of Konami's other franchises. Maybe Konami would be up for licensing them out? Maybe they'd just sell off the old IP to someone who wants to actually make a new Contra or something?
Hideo Kojima has always been an interesting figure in the world of video games. And the thought of him out there, making something new, is pretty exciting to me. New hands on Metal Gear doesn't automatically sound like a bad thing, either. But at least we can all agree that the way Konami has approached this move has been the worst way it possibly could have done this. Even if things behind the scenes have become untenable, it's surprising that this hasn't been spun as some kind of celebration. But I guess they still have to worry about selling copies of Phantom Pain, and that probably becomes more difficult if you're already out there talking about how this was the game that broke up the Kojima/Konami relationship.
Think that game'll show any signs of all this supposed behind-the-scenes turmoil?