It was a sad Friday on October 9th when Hideo Kojima left the Tokyo offices of Konami for the final time. Kojima worked for Konami for nearly 30 years (he started in 1986), and up until this year he had enjoyed almost total creative freedom within the company on phenomenally popular game series such as Silent Hills and Metal Gear Solid.
According to reports, the departure ceremony was attended by a hundred or so guests and took place at Kojima Productions, Kojima’s in-house studio. A source who attended the ceremony told The New Yorker that it was “a rather cheerful but also emotional goodbye.”
The unnamed source also said that he did not see the Konami president, Hideki Hayakawa, or CEO, Sadaaki Kaneyoshi, but some of Kojima’s colleagues from other studios did make an appearance to pay their respects, as did many of the people who worked on his most recent directorial project, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Kojima’s exit is not unexpected, as we reported his resignation
back in April following the cancellation of the latest Silent Hills project with director Guillermo Del Toro. The company announced earlier this year that, Kojima would be separating from Konami following the completion of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which released on September 1 and has reportedly earned $179 million on its first day. Looking at those figures it is hard to imagine why Konami would let Kojima go.
However, Konami has made it very clear that their future plans are to primarily focus on their mobile gaming sector. This is generally attributed to the growing cost of producing games for consoles (Kojima is reported to have spent more than $80 million in producing the latest MGS game) and the dwindling market for consoles in Japan.
“We’ve seen the end of the console-game market in Japan,” Ryan Payton, who worked for Konami between 2005 and 2008 told the New Yorker. “Even by the time Metal Gear Solid 4 shipped, in 2008, I felt like our team was one of just a handful of Japan-based developers who were still fighting to produce blockbuster games.”
The problem (depending on your market position) is that mobile games are cheap to produce and they can bring significant returns. A financial report from Mixi, the company behind Japan’s current top mobile game, Monster Strike, suggests that the company is expected to make around $1.5 billion per year from this single title in Japan alone. This financial boon is something Konami has experienced first-hand with their first mobile hit, Dragon Collection, which boosted profits by almost 80% between 2011 and 2012. As Jordan Amaro, a designer who worked with Kojima on Phantom Pain, put it, “Why risk producing pricey and sophisticated games in an age that favors indulgence in shallow, convenient entertainment?”
Konami all but confirmed rumours of Kojima’s exit back in March, when they pulled his name from promotional material and rebranded his in-house studio to Konami Digital Entertainment. They tried to pass it off as simply rebranding, but news of Kojima’s resignation was confirmed shortly after. Although Konami has said they will continue to make consoles games, the future of popular titles such as Silent Hills and Metal Gear Solid are still ambiguous.
What is also ambiguous is the state of Kojima Productions, as Kojima leaves his studio behind for the time being. He is reportedly locked into a non-compete clause which expires in December, after which time fans are hopeful to see the director branch out on his own.
“It’s a rare case of a highly successful studio being closed down, so obviously everyone is in a state of shock about it, I think,” director of Final Fantasy XIV Hajime Tabata commented.
What the future holds for Hideo Kojima at this stage is unclear as of yet and, due to contractual obligations with Konami, it doesn't look like fans will be getting any closure just yet.