It’s Time to Let Go of Konami

KonamiKonami, as we knew it, is done.

The sooner that fact is understood, the sooner the healing process can begin.

I know it’s going to be tough, but together we can bear through this. Konami was amazing. They were at the center of some of gaming’s iconic franchises over the course of 20 years. Not only did they bring Metal Gear and Silent Hill into the conversation of modern gaming’s best but they also put out the classics Frogger, Castlevania and Contra.

So why would a company as rich a history as Konami seem to be having a fire sale?

Living through the successes of their past does not guarantee success in the future. Especially in the Video Games industry that has seen Atari go out of business just to be resurrected for the name alone, Sega unceremoniously bullied out of the console space and THQ implode around themselves, despite being on the verge of becoming a true AAA publisher.

Metal Gear Rising: RevengeanceAsk yourself this, are you really surprised that this happened?

In recent years, Konami’s only games that performed well enough to turn a noticeable profit have been entries into their Winning 11/Pro Evolution Soccer series and Metal Gear. But none of the entries were chart burners. Metal Gear Rising: Revengence, the last full Metal Gear game, brought in an external developer (albeit a stellar one in Platinum) and only managed to draw 1.7 million copies in global sales across both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In contrast, the last true Metal Gear Solid title, MGS4, sold nearly 6 million copies worldwide.

The brutal truth of Konami’s involvement in games development is that the sales numbers are no longer worth the massive investment it takes to properly develop games for home consoles. Letting classic franchises like Castlevania, Contra and even Hudson’s Bomberman are byproducts of Konami’s prolonged exit from the home console space.

It seems that the only thread holding everything together was Metal Gear and Hideo Kojima. Kojima has long been a proponent of innovation, artful direction and games as a medium to rival film and television entertainment. Behind Kojima Metal Gear became the mammoth property that Konami held dear and was responsible for spearheading the ambitious Silent Hills project as well as a major factor in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainBut let’s be honest. Metal Gear has become a whale in the boardroom. Producing a multi-million dollar entertainment game only increased in size as Kojima ballooned the project out to include luxury features like casting Keifer Sutherland, building their own game engine and creating the multi-SKU nightmare that was Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain. Combined with insane publicity stunts with the infamous Joakim Mogren stunt, Kojima, while brilliant, had become a liability.

The only reason why we are really noticing that Konami is unceremoniously leaving traditional gaming development is because of the ill-timed confluence of events. Kojima and Konami falling out. Metal Gear Solid V’s rocky development period. Silent Hills cancelled. Delisting themselves from the New York Stock Exchange. Konami no longer cares about developing games to create worlds and tell stories. They are a company, who happens to have made a few successful games. They also have health clubs. They also make pachinko machines. They also make slot machines.

So when Konami CEO Hideki Hayakawa said, “Gaming has spread to a number of platforms, but at the end of the day, the platform that is always closest to us, is mobile. Mobile is where the future of gaming lies,” I am disappointed but I am not surprised.

KonamiOr when the state of Nevada approves a bill that allows for gambling games of skill to be including in casinos, a move spearheaded by Konami’s gambling division president Thomas Jingoli, I am not surprised. Odds are the only chance we have at seeing a new game of Frogger is on a skill based slot machine in Vegas.

And that is depressing.

But you know what, it’s okay. I am glad that Kojima is leaving Konami. He is better than what Konami is now. It is a shame that Metal Gear will not leave Konami with Kojima. After all, it was poor production and direction that kept pulling Kojima back into the Metal Gear projects.

However Metal Gear Solid V performs this Fall, I’m sure it will make a ton of money for Konami. Let them relish in it. Let them lie through their teeth about it. Forget about the Konami you loved. Because that Konami will be long gone after this year.

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Hideo Kojima and Konami to Part Ways

Hideo KojimaRumors are swirling around Konami and veteran game designer Hideo Kojima that the two parties will be parting ways following the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Gamespot broke the story and cited an internal source that claimed Konami had restructured in a way that made senior staff at Kojima Productions, including Kojima, independent contractors. Their contracts are reportedly set to expire in December, after MGSV’s launch in September.

When I first heard the story I had to wonder if it was another form of misdirection, as Kojima has gained a reputation for enjoying the chaos that ensues through public relations stunts. Prior to MGSV’s official announcement, Kojima Productions created a fake designer named Joakim Mogren that teased the existence of the game that would eventually reveal itself to be MGSV. The ruse was designed to create groundswell and speculation with just enough breadcrumbs to point in the direction of Kojima and his team.

Alas, it seems that this time the writing is in fact on the wall for Kojima and his studio as Kojima Productions’ branding has been removed from the official Twitter account, the official website and its Los Angeles office has been renamed to Konami Los Angeles Studio.

The Metal Gear creator had expressed his desire to leave the Metal Gear franchise in the hands of development staff at Konami in the past but was constantly reeled back in. Of all video games, Metal Gear Solid has earned a reputation for being truly cinematic and very evident of a single person’s vision. Kojima’s vision for the series has evolved greatly in the near 30 years since the original Metal Gear and it is difficult to disassociate the franchise from his direction.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainWhat this means for the Metal Gear franchise remains to be seen. I doubt that Konami would let such a standout franchise walk out the door with Kojima so there is almost zero chance that they give up the creative rights to the series.

Similarly, Kojima was set to be heavily involved in the next Silent Hill game, Silent Hills. A teaser demo was released showing off the tech under Kojima’s direction named P2 and was incredibly well received. Kojima was slated to direct and produce along side famed film director Guillermo del Toro and actor Norman Reedus.

Much of Konami’s modern success is owed to the franchises that Kojima has been involved in. Whether Konami can sustain his departure remains to be seen, but his absence will certainly be felt. I consider him in the upper echelon of Japanese developers, possibly the best short of Shigeru Miyamoto.

Who knows, maybe he’ll find a second career in taking photos of food. He sure does love to do that.

GameSpot – Kojima Expected to Leave Konami After MGS5, Inside Source Confirms

Three Games that Definied My PlayStation Experience

In addition to the limited edition console, Sony has several prominent figures in game development sharing their memories of the original Playstation over on the official Playstation Blog. From President of Sony’s World Wide Studios Shuhei Yoshida (who chose games he explicitly worked on) and Sony Computer Entertainment of America President Shawn Layden to reknowned third party developers Tim Schafer and Keiji Inafune, there are a ton of high profile memories and even better games being recalled.

So without further ado, I’d like to point out three first generation Playstation games that really defined my experience with that platform, so many years ago.

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid

There’s not a lot that can’t be said about MGS. It does everything so right. It uses every feature of the console, every little feature of the then brand new DualShock and even found ways to break the wall several times. There was smoke on Snake’s cigarette, individually marked boxes to hide in, a fly by wire rocket launcher and “Whose footsteps are these!?” To this day, I find the ability to run around in the snow in the game’s second screen, is mind blowing. Not only were your imprints left in that fresh powder, but the Genome soldiers would notice the tracks and become noticeably upset. One of the few games whose technical prowess is matched by its gameplay.

Bushido Blade 2

Bushido Blade 2

Many would choose the first Bushido Blade, but I have a particular soft spot for Bushido Blade 2. The environments are a little bigger and the weapon choices a little more varied but it still retains the strict rules from the first game. One killing blow equals match over. In my head, the pixelated polygons will always be stylized samurai clashing swords until one player leaves an opening large enough for an advantageous strike. Square Enix, if you’re listening, this franchise would still make for a fantastic modern reboot.

Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII

I typically get a lot of flak for this, but Final Fantasy VIII is still my favorite mainline Final Fantasy. Sure, Final Fantasy VII marked the turning point of modern 3D JRPGs, but it is Final Fantasy VIII’s fated love story between Squall and Rinoa that really captivated me back in 1999. From the spectacular characters, to the stylized ATB battle system and a more mature design aesthetic that I maintain looks better than FF7’s, to the sweeping score opened by the legendary Liberi Fatali. Final Fantasy VIII was no where near perfect, but I fell in love with that game and all of its quirks. Besides, you get to pilot a school.

The PlayStation was a legendary console that gave origin to many of today’s most long running franchises. From Gran Turismo to Parappa the Rapper, Crash Bandicoot to Resident Evil, there is a ton of history on that gray box.

PlayStation.Blog – PlayStation Turns 20: Our All-Time Favorite PSone Games

Metal Gear!? Classic Snake a PS3/PS4 Exclusive

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the prologue to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain which takes place somewhere in the middle of the Metal Gear timeline, is getting some really clever PS4 exclusive DLC. Announced at last night’s PlayStation 4 launch event in New York City, “Déjà Vu” will put players in the polygonal shoes of a classic Solid Snake, ripped straight from the black CDs of the original PlayStation. While the game is releasing across both the PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360/Xbox One, “Déjà Vu” will be exclusive to Sony consoles.

Just seeing that Solid Snake again, in all his PSX glory, gets me excited. I’m curious to see how or if Konami will intertwine the stories of Big Boss and Solid Snake. Hopefully it will be more than just a costume. Hell, I’d love it if they brought David Hayter back, just so he can exclaim “Metal Gear!?” one last time.

Konami throwing exclusive Metal Gear content in Sony’s direction should be no surprise especially with the amount of success the series has received on Sony consoles. But missing additional content from major releases, even in a delayed fashion has got to hurt Microsoft’s odds. Already Xbox is missing out the exclusive Aveline DLC to Assassin’s Creed IV, is set to have a lengthy six month delay on Watch_Dogs DLC and even Bungie’s Destiny will have their beta on Sony consoles first. I know the exclusive extra content is swaying my developing opinion away from Microsoft, despite my past support of the Xbox.

Destructoid – Play as Classic Snake in Metal Gear Solid V on PS4

Konami Slashes Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Includes DLC

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance

One of the hotly anticipated titles of the early year, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is getting a price cut to $29.99. Widely revered by fans of character action games, the Platinum Games / Kojima Productions / Konami game centered around the slightly ambiguous but general badass Raiden is certainly worth the low cost of entry.

Sweetening the pot, Konami also saw to include the two DLC packages Jetstream and Blade Wolf. The two DLC packs if purchased at full price would sell for $9.99 and $6.99 respectively.

As much as I want to dive into Revengeance and slice up watermelons and robots (mostly watermelons), I refuse to play it until after I complete Metal Gear Solid 4. I’ve managed to go six years without spoiling too much of the game, might as well ride it out a bit longer.

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance

E3 Early Impressions

Leave it to a couple of expected announcements, some really nice gameplay footage and a couple surprises to get me excited about E3 again.

First off, Microsoft seems to be trying (a little too desparately) to integrate casual online functions and gaming with the Xbox 360. A bit of it was highlighted previously with the New Xbox Experience and things like 1 vs 100 Live. Now they’re adding social networking functionality via Facebook and Twitter. I think this is a novel idea and one that could potentially be a nice little feature.

The other is Natal, or the 360’s answer to Wii motion/IR. Sony already has SIXAXIS, which is ok, but nothing spectacular. Natal promises to be different by using a camera to track whole body motion, something that sounds similar to the PS2’s EyeToy or the Xbox Vision camera that came out a couple years ago.  My take on motion control is it can be a bother at times, especially when you are forced to use it. Some games make good use of motion sensitivity like Uncharted had a little bit of it and several Wii games are exceptional at it. But for the most part it’s Microsoft tapping into a gimmick that all its competition has. Although if Steven Spielberg is helping announce it, I suppose all is forgiven…

Now onto some game impressions…

The Beatles Rock Band – I had heard a lot about it before and  I’m already very excited about it. I love the new guitars and the idea to chronicle the Fab Four’s career. Watching it in motion is something else. Going from Liverpool to the United States, playing the various stages of their career from performing on TV, to stadiums to their LSD trip period. The Beatles looks like an incredible experience. Throw in not two part harmonization, but three and this looks like the step that the Rock Band / Guitar Hero formula needed to take.

Left 4 Dead 2 – You knew it was coming, just not this fast. Coming at the end of the year, Valve is bringing the sequel to the one of my favorite games of last year, Left 4 Dead. Four new survivors (which unfortunately means no Louis…aww) take on the zombie horde at the same time as the first game, just in new cities, including French Quarter New Orleans amongst others. There’s a new focus on melee combat with weapons like baseball bats, frying pans and (yay) Chainsaws. I’m hoping for custom characters, so we’ll see.

Halo ODST – The “expansion pack” has become a spin-off, and apparantly that spin-off deserves a $59.99 MSRP.  Impressions from the first gameplay trailer are good, it’s still very Halo-ish. But I wonder how is one normal ODST supposed to fight the Covenant in a Master Chief like fashion, without having any Spartan abilities. I see a silenced sub-machine gun and really that’s about it. The campaign looks very good with a lot of interweaving stories including Reach and what might be the first Covenant assault on Earth.

Halo Reach – Here’s the game that looks to hoist the flag as a true descendant of Halo. Reach is a story that has already been published and many know about but the teaser trailer looks to bring chaos and a massive Covenant army assaulting Earth. There also looks to be many Spartans. Excellent.

Forza Motorsport 3 – The trailer looks really wonky. Choreographed stunt driving at high speeds looks all fine and good, but Forza isn’t exactly known for it’s tricks. Drifing in Forza has always been something I’ve been curious about after watching videos on YouTube so maybe there will be a bit more of a focus on that. What I can say, is that the engine has been revamped, it will run at 60 frames/sec and there will be as many as 400 cars in the next installment. Drops October.

Crackdown 2 – The game that everybody bought to get into the Halo 3 Beta turned out to be not half bad. Crackdown 2 looks to have a more detailed cell-shaded engine and all the superpowers that made the first one fun. It also looks to have something more monstrous going on than taking down crime gangs.

Metal Gear Solid Rising – Leave it to Hideo Kojima to steal the stage at Microsoft’s press conference. MGS Rising will be a new Metal Gear, focusing on an older Raiden. Hopefully between MGS2 and MGS4, during the time he goes rogue. I like the idea, Raiden is a much better character now than he was after MGS2. It has been anounced for 360, but Kojima is likely to announce it for PS3 later.

Final Fantasy XIII – Nothing new on FFXIII yet, except a release window. Looks to come out on 360 March 2010. Ps3 Simultaneously? Is Square focusing on the 360 or the PS3 release in America? It’s hard to say. Why wouldn’t they announce a solid PS3 window?