In light of the tepid reception to Metal Gear Survive, is there still a future for the series? The Metal Gear Solid franchise is one of the most popular in gaming, merging stealth with a slick cinematic presentation and memorable characters. The series is the brainchild of Hideo Kojima and, perhaps more than any other gaming franchise, is deeply rooted in his own personal, quirky style.
From infusing the stories with his political and philosophical beliefs to his love of cheesy melodrama and references to movies, games and anime, Metal Gear Solid has an auteur stamp few games possess. Kojima has spoken many times of wanting to leave the franchise and create something new, but he was always drawn back. Replacing Kojima as the creative figurehead was always going to be tough, but the controversy surrounding his eventual departure – and publisher Konami’s actions leading up to it – have left the future of the series in a shaky position.
The release of spinoff title Metal Gear Survive weeks ago for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has been controversial since its announcement, and not just because it’s the first post-Kojima title. The game introduces mechanics and enemies that feel at odds with established formula and the mixed critical reaction has been matched by disappointing sale figures. It’s anti-consumer microtransactions (which include boosts and paying real-world money for character slots) aren’t helping either. Konami’s evolving business model has seen it gradually steer away from AAA games too, meaning unless something changes, Metal Gear Survive just might mark the end of the main series.
This Page: The Kojima/Konami Divorce
The Kojima/Konami Divorce
Kojima joined Konami in 1986 and created the original Metal Gear for the MSX2 the following year. The game is crude by modern standards, but its focus on stealth over action was considered groundbreaking for the time. It spawned a sequel three years later, but it wasn’t until third game Metal Gear Solid arrived in 1998 that the series became a phenomenon. The innovative gameplay and storytelling made it a monster success and Kojima himself something of a celebrity.
Kojima would go on to write, direct, produce and design all of the main games, in addition to producing spin-offs like 2013’s Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Kojima was set to finally keep his promise to leave the franchise and focus on other titles. He already signed on as co-director of Silent Hills, a sequel in Konami’s survival horror series that would have paired him with Guillermo del Toro and Norman Reedus. A demo dubbed P.T. (aka Playable Teaser) was released to acclaim in 2014, and would itself inspire horror titles like Resident Evil VII: Biohazard.
Kojima was once seen as inseparable from Konami – his creative home of almost 30 years – but in March 2015 came ominous signs of a rift. Reports claimed Kojima would leave the company following completion of The Phantom Pain, his credit was stripped from marketing material and Silent Hills was cancelled; even the P.T. demo was permanently taken down. Reports also suggested Kojima and his team finished the game under borderline Orwellian conditions, being constantly monitored and their access to email and phone restricted. Kojima departed Konami in October 2015, with Kojima Productions becoming an independent studio following the split.
No solid reason has been given for the breakup; some suggest the spiralling budget of The Phantom Pain – which came to a reported $80 million – was a huge bone of contention. The ever-rising cost of AAA games development also saw Konami announce a focus on mobile games and casino machines moving forwards – a move that upset gamers, but the company’s profits have continually increased as a result.
Can Metal Gear Survive Without Kojima?
Fans have been vocal in their dismay over Konami’s treatment of Kojima and their other properties, so the announcement of Metal Gear Survive was always going to be met with scorn. It didn’t help the concept of the game revolved around soldiers being sucked into a wormhole and forced to do combat with zombie-style creatures.
It didn’t particularly look or feel like Metal Gear Solid, and the backlash to the first trailer in August 2016 was swift. Now the game is finally out, the overall reaction is mixed. Common complaints focus on the how Metal Gear Survive is essentially a mod of The Phantom Pain and recycles all its assets from that title. The generic zombie enemies and sheer tedium of the early sections have also been singled out, though some reviewers claim if players stick with it, there’s fun to be had. Survive is also retailing for a reduced price, reflecting its spin-off status.
It appears Konami can’t help whipping up controversy, especially in light of news that if players wish to create a new save slot without deleting their present character, they’ll be charged $10 to do so. While the game has its defenders, praise for Metal Gear Survive is lukewarm at its hottest. Perhaps fearing a vocal fan backlash Konami did little to promote it prior to release – which the sales reflect. The game debuted at a disappointing number 6 in the UK, which was down 85% from the last spin-off Revengeance. It then plummeted to 17 on the chart in its second week; the game isn’t doing so hot on Steam either.
So the question is, what happens next for the series following Metal Gear Survive? Given the venom the title attracted, Konami will likely leave the franchise alone for now. Another game would want to be something very special, but it would take nothing short of Kojima’s return to soothe fan fears. That’s unlikely for two reasons; the scorched earth breakup between the creator and Konami, and Kojima’s desire to move on to other projects.
Kojima is hard at work on Death Stranding, an original title reteaming him with Silent Hills collaborators Guillmero del Toro and Norman Reedus. In typical Kojima fashion, the game is shrouded in mystery, though it certainly carries his flair for the outlandish. In spite of the bust-up during its development, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is still considered a fantastic game, and Kojima is likely content to end his run on a strong note.
While Konami has stated their commitment to continuing their other franchises, that hasn’t been reflected in reality. The last Silent Hill console game was released 2012, and since Silent Hills’ cancellation there’s no sign of a new entry. Castlevania hasn’t had a new title since 2014, though the recent Netflix series drew acclaim; season two is arriving summer 2018. Outside of the Pro Evolution Soccer games, the company’s future is very much focused on mobile gaming. A Metal Gear Solid movie is in development by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island), though it doesn’t have a cast or release date set.
So, is Metal Gear Survive the last game in the franchise? For now, sadly, it appears it could be. Money talks and frankly Konami’s focus on mobile games has really paid off for them. Survive won’t be any kind of blockbuster, and given the company’s treatment of their other properties, they’ll be in no rush to prioritise an expensive sequel. With no creative vision or driving force behind the scenes, maybe it’s for the best to end on The Phantom Pain. That’s the completion of Kojima’s vision for the series, and its doubtful fans want to see it continue with titles like Metal Gear Survive, and become a literal zombie of itself.
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