Japanese game developer Konami has been in the news a lot in 2015 but mostly for the wrong reasons. The company saw reports spread like wildfire earlier this year that it subjects its employees to prison-like working conditions, ridiculous restrictions, constant video monitoring, and even demotions to custodial staff or factory jobs for a number of the game developers.
The company’s most high-profile transgressions centered on the visionary game director Hideo Kojima, the creator of the Metal Gear franchise. This year saw the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Kojima’s swan song and the end of his run on the series. Konami chose to remove Kojima and his studio, Kojima Productions, from The Phantom Pain’s marketing materials and eventually disbanded the studio, along with its American counterpart.
Konami and Kojima continued to have their differences, though the former continued to deny any problems. When reports surfaced that Kojima left the company in October, Konami denied it, claiming the director was simply “on vacation.” Things remained quiet for a while, but that changed during The Game Awards 2015. When Metal Gear Solid V won the award for Best Action/Adventure Game, Kojima was not present to accept the award. Host Geoff Keighley then revealed (very publicly) that Konami’s legal team would not allow Kojima to travel, as he was still under contract, drawing boos from the crowd. See the above video for the full segment.
Unsurprisingly, Kojima has now officially parted ways with Konami. According to a report from Japan’s Nikkei Kojima is no longer under contract with Konami and may already be setting up for the future. The veteran game designer, along with a number of former Kojima Productions employees, plan to open a new studio. The report also indicates Kojima has already begun negotiations with Sony to have their debut game launch first on PlayStation.
Another event that foreshadowed Kojima’s departure from Konami was the cancellation of the highly anticipated Silent Hills. Revealed at Tokyo Game Show 2014, the horror game was developed in partnership with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and starred The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus. To build excitement, the developers released a free demo called P.T. on the PlayStation Network – a playable teaser for the game that earned almost universal praise. When news came of the game’s cancellation, players and creators alike were outraged.
With his new freedom outside of Konami, there’s no telling what sort of projects Kojima might undertake. Many of his fans would be happy to see a resurrection of his cancelled project with del Toro. Since Konami owns the rights to the Silent Hill franchise as well as any work done on the existing build of the game though, the team would have to start from the beginning. But with the two visionary creators working together, especially if they once again tapped the work of acclaimed artist Junji Ito, there’s no reason they couldn’t craft a game that was equally compelling.
Update (Dec 16 2015): Sony has officially announced that the newly formed Kojima Productions will develop their first game exclusively for the PlayStation 4. Andrew House, President and Global CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.:
“PlayStation’s history is one of game innovation and great new franchises. Hideo Kojima has been a huge part of that history, and we are therefore delighted that he has chosen to bring his brand new project to life in partnership with PlayStation. We look forward to working with him on an exciting new game and warmly welcome him to the PlayStation family.”
Hideo Kojima, Game Designer, Kojima Productions adds:
“I will be taking on a new challenge by establishing my own independent studio, and I am thrilled to be able to embark on this journey with PlayStation, who I have continued to work with all these past years. I cannot wait to deliver, with PlayStation, a game that will become a compelling franchise.”