News about Konami employee mistreatment via Nikkei article

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ThePhantomStranger

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So there was a new Nikkei article detailing Konami's working conditions and the MGSV budget and it's been translated by "freelance game localizer" Thomas James.

Go here to read his full summary. The Gaf thread on it also has a few interesting insights.

The major bits of the article seem to be about the toxic mistreatment of employees:

  • Non-internal e-mail communication is done via a constantly randomizing e-mail address
  • Lunchtime leave is regulated via time cards with those exceeding time being "outed"
  • Employees deemed useless are transferred to different parts of the company like security, janitorial, and assemblyline. This has happened to producers and creators.
  • One example of this was a facebook post from an employee moving to a different company where by people giving the post a like found themselves moved around.

Also the MGSV budget is like 80 mil or something anyway...

There's a full spoiler bellow with his full series of tweets embedded.

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Humanity

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Stay classy Konami.

Also $80 mil is still nothing compared to GTA V's 2 billion, that they recouped in literally the first few days of sales.

Not sure if MGS V will have the same selling power, but the open world allure is sure to draw some more innocent bystanders into a purchase I'm sure.

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willin

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If any of that is actually true then Kojima is probably better off leaving.

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newmoneytrash

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Yeah 80 million seems kinda... low for that game? Like don't get me wrong that is a shit load of money, but it's not like ~most expensive game ever made~ money so idk

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zombie2011

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Honestly besides the random e-mail, a lot of this stuff seems not to bad. From what I've read about the Japanese work environment it's pretty harsh. I had to work at one of our Japanese facilities for a couple weeks, and it was a very intense environment.

Also doesn't Sony do the same thing when they have a surplus of employees they send them to rooms to do remedial tasks until they quit. I remember reading that so many places on the internet over the last few years, might not be true but i've read it a lot.

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ThePhantomStranger

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@zombie2011: Getting shuffled around to janitorial because you liked a facebook post seems a bit harsh though. Also wouldn't be surprised if Sony did similar things considering this seems to be a Japanese corporate culture thing in general.

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nightriff

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#7  Edited By nightriff

No one wants to see Kojima working as a janitor?

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Pepsiman

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Oh hey, my tweets got mentioned on my Internet home, awesome! Thanks!

I think most of what I wrote speaks for itself, but regarding the budget thing specifically: my surprise isn't over some notion that MGSV couldn't have possibly cost that. It's definitely viable given the development length. The surprise comes from my personally understanding of Japanese game budgets; very few companies can even think about committing that much money for a console game and frankly, even with its occasional mobile success, Konami honestly tends to sit on the edge between being able to comfortably do that, even with IPs like MGS. I didn't mention it in the tweets, but the article mentions that their game revenue has dropped 40% in the last ten years, buoyed mainly by what success they have had in mobile. (This money doesn't account that their non-game sectors make, mind.) That they would divert that much towards the game when it still wasn't complete at the time of that figure is a surprise knowing that the margins for financial error for Japanese publishers tends to be pretty slim, let alone for a company with few successful IP to exploit at this stage like Konami. Couple this with differences in salaries between Japanese and Western developers and you have a budget that, sure, isn't unprecedented in modern games in general, but is rare among Japanese companies given the current economic environment. The standard to compare MGSV's budget isn't western games here, but other Japanese games; you're otherwise dealing in apples and oranges.

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kasaioni

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#10  Edited By kasaioni

Konami probably should have changed their statement from "mobile games are the future" to "mobile games will get us money now so we can continue to be a company in the future".

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Fitzgerald

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@humanity: your post leaves the impression that you believe GTA 5 cost 2 billion to create. It did not cost 2 billion to make.

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ArtisanBreads

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#12  Edited By ArtisanBreads
@tajasaurus said:

Yeah 80 million seems kinda... low for that game? Like don't get me wrong that is a shit load of money, but it's not like ~most expensive game ever made~ money so idk

It's only like 10 more than 4 cost or so.

I wonder if that counts the time spent making their Fox Engine as well?

Maybe they can license out their IP. I would be happy seeing Kojima go somewhere and make something else with a Western company though so I'm pretty fine with this. I love Metal Gear but hopefully V is a fitting end if it is the real end.

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kasaioni

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#13  Edited By kasaioni

@fitzgerald: 1.5 billion of that was probably marketing.

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Pepsiman

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#14  Edited By Pepsiman

@dudeglove said:

@pepsiman: Forgive my ignorance, but what is the general mood surrounding the economy in Japan currently? Inflation? Stagnation? I know Japan has pulled out of a few automotive deals in Russia due to instabilities here (and probably won't be back for another 2 years until things calm down), but part of me wonders due to the stereotypical risk-averse nature of Japanese business is whether that's them downsizing things on the international front in order to shore up things domestically rather than fear of volatile foreign markets.

I'll preface all of this by saying first that I haven't lived in Japan for a few years. I work for Japanese publishers as a translator, but from my home here in the States, at least for the time being. So I'm not necessarily the most directly in-touch with how some things have been since I left.

My understanding is that Japan still more or less remains in the recession economy it's been stuck in since the 80s bubble burst. There have been attempts in recent years to revitalize the economy in various ways (Google "Abenomics," named after the current prime minister Shinzo Abe for a primer) that, too my understanding, have more or less flopped and basically contributed to the pretty severe devaluing of the yen against a lot of currencies. (I believe for the US dollar, it hovers at around 120 yen for $1.) Knowing that, I would largely agree with your assessment that more than anything, Konami's withdrawal from traditional games is probably spurred in large part to seeing its future within certain successful ventures it has within its own borders, especially with respect to gambling. It's not to say that they don't have international aspirations for other parts of the company (apparently even their gambling sector wants to break into Las Vegas), but they're definitely trending more insular in recent years. I would say that you can't discount traditional Japanese business bullishness altogether, but in Konami's instance when looking at the greater picture, you're probably right that it's not the biggest factor going on here.

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ThePhantomStranger

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@tajasaurus said:

Yeah 80 million seems kinda... low for that game? Like don't get me wrong that is a shit load of money, but it's not like ~most expensive game ever made~ money so idk

It's only like 10 more than 4 cost or so.

I wonder if that counts the time spent making their Fox Engine as well?

Maybe they can license out their IP. I would be happy seeing Kojima go somewhere and make something else with a Western company though so I'm pretty fine with this. I love Metal Gear but hopefully V is a fitting end if it is the real end.

From what I understand MGS4's recent budget being cited at 60mil has been denied by senior producer Ken-ichiro Imaizumi stating that if MGS4 cost that much then it would be multi-platform.

I also hope that Kojima leads an exodus of talent out of Konami and starts his own company. Perhaps that's an unrealistic hope though...

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obcdexter

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Where do you get these insane numbers for GTA V? No matter where I look, the absolute maximum value thrown around for this game (including marketing) is around the 270 million dollar mark. O_o

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I have to assume that 80 million dollar budget, if not just horribly mismanaged, has to include the creation of the Fox Engine. 80 million pre-marketing budget is kind of crazy.

This assumption brings me to question what Konami's plans are with that engine. Write it off as a loss? Use it to make more Metal Gear games? Hell, licence it out to 3rd parties?

Also, those horrific work environments don't even seem too surprising for Japanese companies. When "banishment rooms" are a thing, I find it hard to be shocked at any of this bullshit.

While Kojima will escape this hell hole relatively unscathed, I fear for the real victims. KojiPro. Maybe they would leave en masse with Kojima, but that seems HIGHLY unlikely. Kojima will probably be taken on alone by a larger company, with the members of KojiPro having to fend for themselves or rot within Konami as Janitors.

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mike

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@humanity said:

.

Also $80 mil is still nothing compared to GTA V's 2 billion, that they recouped in literally the first few days of sales.

I've never heard of a number anywhere near this high for GTA V. Are you sure about that?

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thatpinguino

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#21 thatpinguino  Staff

Maybe I don't understand the Japanese job market, but why would anyone stay with Konami after being reassigned to janitorial duties? Can they not leave for some other design job or are they just staying until they find something else? I'm guessing this is extremely bad since we're hearing about it at all, but that shit sounds beyond vindictive.

I don't see why any new developer would want to work for Konami after hearing about stuff like this. This just isn't how you should treat your employees. Luckily, they don't seem to be in the game business anymore anyway.

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roc_553

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2 billion? You could rent out the Staples Center 2.5 times with that kind of money.

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ThePhantomStranger

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@viciousbearmauling: It would be kind of insane of Konami to not at least try to license the fox engine out to third parties. Granted they might then have to keep some former Kojipro employees as tech support and from what I understand janitorial and security are just so so understaffed right now...bleugh...

Also I would hope that Kojima would be looking out for the employees at Kojipro beyond just Shinkawa and other high profile guys considering how difficult it must be right now with the e-mail situation to start looking for a job. Then again Kojima didn't miss a beat throwing his team under the bus when the original rising went bad so it's tough to tell with that guy.

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deactivated-6050ef4074a17

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In reading this I discovered Konami was going to develop a new Suikoden game and called it off. So they're definitely on my shit-list.

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@thephantomstranger: His relationship with KojiPro has always been odd. That Rising video is actually uncomfortable. I wouldn't be surprised if he took a few of the best, but I think that studio is around 200 people? Maybe Konami keeps a fraction of those people for Fox Engine licensing support (OR knowing Konami, they licence out the engine, but just don't have any fucking tech support). The majority of that studio is fucked.

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ZolRoyce

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Back in the day, I would say around the PS2 era, I never thought Konami would one day turn out to be just such a wretched company. Man, that sucks.

No one wants to see Kojima working as a janitor?

Loading Video...

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nightriff

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@zolroyce said:

@nightriff said:

No one wants to see Kojima working as a janitor?

Loading Video...

Totally forgot about this and shows that he was demoted in 2011, how much involvement did he have in MGS5....?

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Avanzato

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There was some Japanese show that I watched a couple of episodes of set in a Kyoto travel agency. It was about the characters in the janitorial section where they had been banished by management. Obviously this 'solution' is common enough to be part of popular culture.

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nickhead

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#29  Edited By nickhead

@thatpinguino: I feel like I've heard its really uncommon for japanese employees to leave companies? Like once they get hired they're in it for the long haul no matter what (typically)? I could be completely wrong.

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monkeyking1969

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No one wants to see Kojima working as a janitor?

Err I would.

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mechakirby

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I'm sure that $80 million probably includes the development of the FOX Engine, which if they're going to use on other games going forward (maybe that was the plan 5 years ago, but now I don't think so) wouldn't be fair to include in MGS5's budget if you're trying to leverage against Kojima. But I really wouldn't be surprised if just MGS5 alone cost $80 million.


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Humanity

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#32  Edited By Humanity

@Mike said:
@humanity said:

.

Also $80 mil is still nothing compared to GTA V's 2 billion, that they recouped in literally the first few days of sales.

I've never heard of a number anywhere near this high for GTA V. Are you sure about that?

Oops I meant to write 200 million. It cost roughly $260 million out of which I assume maybe a little less than half was marketing.

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@nightriff said:

No one wants to see Kojima working as a janitor?

Err I would.

I would also install a PAL card system he'd have to use on his night shifts. He would need to freeze the card in the freezer in order to open the blue door, he would have to heat up the card in the microwave in the kitchen to enter the red door and at last he'd have to just hang around for a while to be able to open the yellow door! Kuwabara, kuwabara! #pullear

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hermes

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I am not surprised about the 80 millions in budget. MGS has always been one of the most highly produced Japanese games ever. It is not much compared to western games like GTA V or Destiny, but it is a lot more than other Japanese games (the closest is FF13 and FF12 with over 50 millions).

When you think Kojima one morning woke up and said: "I want to film several commercials while the game is loading, with real actors, lots of CGI and in TV sets. They will be only tangentially referential, and will reproduce simultaneously, so no one will see more than glimpses of each"; or "I want to hire international models to work, so that they appear in the game as bosses. If Snake points a camera at them, they will pose"; or "I want someone to design and program that, if the player spills ice on the floor, it will melt, but it will do according to the laws of thermodynamic, so that it will be relative to other sources of heat", and many people spent days/weeks working on any of those ideas, it is no surprise the games cost a lot more than any other game around.

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Wolfgame

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This whole thing makes me sad, I have a collection of inbox konami games from snes era that I really enjoy. Historicially I grew up with snes era konami titles. I don't really know what to say to all this information

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ShadowKnight508

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#36  Edited By ShadowKnight508

Found this on Kotaku today regarding Konami's inner workings under it's "Big Brother" methods of control. You can read the full article there, but here is the interesting stuff that was listed:

  • Konami has an official division called the “Internal Audit Office” (内部監査室). One Konami employee compared them to the company’s own secret police. This division checks internal communication, such as email, Konami’s closed circuit cameras, and monitors who leaves and enters the company.
  • One source said that the Internal Audit Office will even contact the employers of ex-Konami staff to tell the new companies how awful these former workers were.
  • There is also a team within Konami called the Monitoring Group (モニタリング課). The team sit in a room that’s filled with monitors showing the internal CCTV feeds from cameras located within Konami. There are cameras in the company’s rooms, corridors and data centers. The Internal Audit Office has access to all this information for employee monitoring.
  • Konami employees who want to use the internet must apply via the IT department for an internet VPN. Employees who want to take a laptop home must also apply. If approved, they log in through a VPN. According to one former employee, screenshots of employee computers are randomly taken, which sometimes results in employees getting in trouble for what’s on their monitors.
  • There are rules about which entrance and exit employees can use, say current and former staff. When leaving, employees must show their Konami I.D., but then tell the security guard where they are going, whether that is to a nearby convenience store or just stepping out for a smoke break. When employees leave during normal business hours, this is tracked and compiled into a list. Employees who leave too often are reprimanded.
  • Current and former staff say that every Monday morning, Konami’s Operating Officers have a meeting which is taped and broadcast on an internal Konami website. All Konami employees must watch this meeting, and this is tracked. Employees who fail to watch the meeting have their name and division announced throughout the company.

Man...how can you work for such a company? I am glad that Kojima isn't stuck working under these terrible conditions anymore now that he is free to do what he wants.

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