Update: A Konami spokesperson has told Japanese site Tokyo Sports that Kojima is on vacation after his work on Metal Gear Solid V. The translation of the statement comes to us via Kotaku. This is the first statement Konami or Kojima has made on the report by the New Yorker.
“Currently, Kojima is a listed as a company employee [at Konami]," said the spokesperson. "Currently, Kojima and the development team are finished developing Metal Gear Solid V and are taking a long time off from work."
Original story: Hideo Kojima may have finally left Kojima Productions and Konami. According to The New Yorker, Kojima's final day was October 9, though that fact has not been confirmed by Konami or Kojima himself. This is more formality than anything; anyone who's been paying attention to Konami could tell you that Kojima's time at the publisher was already over. All that remained was getting Metal Gear Solid V out the door.
Losing Kojima would mean that Konami has ushered out one of its most veteran developers. He's only the latest on a long list, including LovePlus senior producer Akari Uchida and character designer Mino Taro, Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and PES producer Dave Cox , PES UK team leader Jon Murphy, and Ninety-Nine Nights II and Blades of Time producer Tak Fujii. The shift comes as Konami looks to move towards mobile titles and pachinko games based on its properties. For the company, it seems those markets have a larger chance of return in comparison to the cost of development. Fujii pointed this out in his comments to the New Yorker.
"I saw many colleagues unwillingly reassigned," he said. "Most of them blamed everyone but themselves. But they were not willing to adapt. They were waiting for the golden days to return. All they had left were legendary stories of their products, which are no longer relevant for either the technology or the market."
Still it's rather shocking how Konami has reportedly treated one of its best developers and the studio he's built.
"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," Hajime Tabata, who's currently directing Final Fantasy XV, told the New Yorker. "But we believe that we can survive. At least, until the company decides to close us down."
This leaves the question of what happens with Metal Gear Solid as a series. Does Konami still try to keep the series running with Kojima gone, or will Metal Gear follow Castlevania and Silent Hill into pachinko land? An official statement back in March said that the series would be continuing on.
"As the next step in the series, Konami has already resolved to develop a new Metal Gear title," said the company in a press release.
"[Konami] said in the past previously that obviously the Metal Gear brand will continue," UK community manager Graham Day told Game On Daily in September. "Yeah, course it can [continue without Kojima]. Metal Gear is about the story, it's about the characters and I think, yeah. Look at things like Metal Gear Rising. That was an example of the title being taken in a new direction by separate teams with obviously hands-in from other parties. And that was in itself a very, very good game as well, and that was obviously led by a completely different team."
The question is what form will Metal Gear take?
The New Yorker report also states that Kojima's non-compete ends in December, meaning we may see what he decides to do next in early 2016. Will he stick out on his own, or seek another publisher to back his next project? There may be some deep pockets in the West who'd love to snap up the creator of Metal Gear.