A Konami Without Kojima: The Impossible Made Real
When I read the first rumors about Hideo Kojima leaving Konami, I, probably like many others, dismissed it as absurd. In my mind, Konami without Hideo Kojima was an impossibility. If Konami was a body, Kojima has undoubtedly been the face. Of course it takes numerous people and elements for a company and its products to come together successfully, and Konami certainly has a bountiful supply of successful IPs that don’t have Kojima’s name attached to them, but we’re talking the guy who helmed Metal Gear. A Konami that doesn’t have Kojima? It seems absurd. Yet here we are and the writing on the wall is pretty clear. Whether we believe it or not, we appear to be witnessing the impossible made possible.
One of the reasons it’s so hard to imagine this coming to pass comes from the lengthy tenure that Kojima has held with the company. Kojima started his career with Konami way back in 1986. He worked with the MSX Home Computer System, putting out some fairly under-the-radar products. It was only a little later that he was placed at the head of the series for which the whole world would come to know him. The original Metal Gear was released in 1987 for the MSX and its sequel, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, would release on the MSX2 in 1990. These games were interesting for the groundwork they laid, but it was Metal Gear Solid in 1998 for the PS1 that made Kojima an international name.
Metal Gear Solid made use of everything Kojima introduced in the preceding two MSX games and adapted and perfected it in the 3D realm of the PS1. To simply say that it groundbreaking would be an understatement. Whether you are a die-hard fan or think the series is overrated, here’s a factual snapshot of Metal Gear Solid: look up any list of the most anticipated games for any year a Metal Gear Solid game was slated to release and you’ll find it there, probably in the top five. Each of the four available core iterations of the series have each moved over three million units a piece and each has a Metacritic aggregate rating of 90+ out of 100. Love them or not, the effect of Metal Gear Solid on the gaming landscape has been profound.
So where does that leave Konami? By-and-large, the fearful outcry of many fans is that Metal Gear Solid will never be the same again. Maybe and maybe not. At the very least, Kojima’s vision will guide Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, as he himself expressed intent to complete it in an open statement on the Konami website. It should be noted though, this is not the first time Kojima has expressed wanting to step away from Metal Gear. Kojima was initially not going to direct Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots, but death threats forced the team into a tough spot and Kojima eventually relented to co-directing the game alongside Shuyo Murata. Furthermore, Kojima also made mention that he intended Metal Gear Solid 4 to be the last Metal Gear title he would be involved in. In retrospect, the latest events may have been a long time coming rather than a shocker.
Even so, Konami has already expressed that there would be more Metal Gear games after The Phantom Pain. Could this be bad? Kojima certainly had a masterful voice and message in the game, but does that mean it can’t be done without him? I don’t think so. There are plenty of franchises out there that survived and flourished without their original directors’ guiding hands. I, for one, would like to see Shuyo Murata ride solo in the captain’s seat. He co-wrote the stories for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and would have directed Guns of the Patriots on his own without serious intervention. Working so closely near Kojima for so long, I have to believe Murata would know better than anyone how things should work. If not him, then I don’t know who, but I am not fearful for the future of the Metal Gear franchise. There’s no reason to be yet.
The other fear expressed is that if Kojima leaves after The Phantom Pain, then Silent Hills, which he has been co-directing alongside legendary director, Guillermo Del Toro, is in danger. There has been no concrete word on what’s going to happen to Silent Hills, but here’s the thing: they still have Del Toro and Norman Reedus. Even if they lose Kojima, I seriously doubt that game is going to the wood chipper with such amazing multi-million dollar talent on the line. Nonetheless, until Konami makes an official statement on the matter of Silent Hills, everything is speculation, hearsay and rumors.
So what about Hideo Kojima? What happens to the Metal Gear mastermind after the credits roll in The Phantom Pain? If Kojima is leaving Konami for good then does that mean we stop seeing Kojima products? I would venture to guess probably not. At the 2008 MTV Game Awards, after receiving a lifetime achievement award, Kojima stated in his speech that he would never retire from the video game business as long as he lived. Sure, that was quite a few years ago and times change, but what I’m getting at is that if Kojima wants to keep making games, he hardly needs to be with Konami to do it. With his legendary status, he could easily strike out on his own with support from any number of places, and there are present examples to support this.
Let’s not forget that another member of gaming royalty, former Capcom employee and co-creator of Mega Man, Keiji Inafune, has been quite busy in his endeavors since leaving Capcom. He has started his own company, Comcept USA, and together with Inti Creates, they’ve already developed a couple notable titles with Azure Striker Gunvolt (August 2014) and Mighty No. 9 (April 2015). Mighty No. 9 in particular was a Kickstarter that succeeded easily with Inafune’s name behind it. I imagine if a Kickstarter showed up that had Kojima’s name attached, it would meet with similar success. Kojima leaving Konami doesn’t spell the end of Kojima-led products in any way. Heck, it may be an opportunity for Kojima to break away from the Metal Gear formula and do something like a spiritual successor to Snatcher.
At the end of the day, it sucks to think that Konami and Kojima might be finished with one another. The Metal Gear Solid franchise is a treasure trove of quality that has produced memorable moments repeatedly. It makes me sad to see the end of this relationship, but there are still some good things on the way. I’ll look forward to playing The Phantom Pain and I’m hopeful that we’ll still have Silent Hills to look for come 2016. Whatever happens, I can only hope that if Konami and Kojima are truly parting ways, it’s on amicable terms. I, nonetheless, remain optimistic that this is not the last we’ll hear of Kojima and that we will continue to see both parties produce quality products.