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Konami Tries to Quietly Erase Hideo Kojima as It Continues to Bleed Talent [Updated]

The creator of Metal Gear Solid and Konami have seem to had a falling out.

Analysis by Mike Williams, .

UPDATE: Konami released a statement confirming that further Metal Gear games are coming, but the publisher is looking for new main staff for the next project after Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The statement does not cover Kojima's employment status otherwise.

"I want to reassure fans that I am 100% involved and will continue working on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; I’m determined to make it the greatest game I’ve directed to date. Don’t miss it!" said Hideo Kojima in the joint statement.

"In addition, Konami will continue to develop and distribute top-quality content in the Metal Gear series following MGSV: TPP. We greatly anticipate and deeply appreciate your ongoing support for Metal Gear," said the company in its statement. "As the next step in the series, Konami has already resolved to develop new Metal Gear. We will be conducting interviews for main staff to lead the development."

How do you expunge all signs of a breakup without letting anybody know the relationship is dead? Konami is attempting to figure out the answer to that question.

What has become apparent is that there's been a fallout between Konami and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima. For a long time, Kojima was Konami's golden boy and could do no wrong, but today Konami began slowly and quietly removing Kojima's name from everything at the company. The official Metal Gear Solid V website, which once proudly listed Phantom Pain as "A Hideo Kojima Game" has lost that branding. The URL that once pointed Kojima Productions' website now redirects to a generic Metal Gear portal site. The official Metal Gear Twitter account went from @Kojima_Pro_Live to @metalgear_en today.

Note the changes to the branding on the official site.

Earlier this month, Konami hinted at these potential changes. Back in July of last year, Kojima was appointed executive content officer, with Shinichi Hanamoto joining him as senior content officer. Earlier this month, Konami released a document showing a new organizational structure coming into effect on March 16, 2015. Kojima and Hanamoto were not listed on the new executive rollcall, with Shoji Dewa being promoted to senior content officer. The publisher also announced that it was shifting to a "headquarters-controlled system", with three Production Divisions handling the Digital Entertainment business.

Kojima Productions launched a studio in Los Angeles back in September of 2013, a North American division to bring Western talent into Kojima's sphere. On Konami's jobs site, Kojima Productions LA is now known as Konami Los Angeles Studio, which is still hiring.

Despite all these changes, Konami's comment on the matter was still alarmingly slight on information. "Konami Digital Entertainment, including Mr. Kojima, will continue to develop and support Metal Gear products. Please look forward to future announcements," a Konami representative told Videogamer this morning. Konami has yet to respond to our request to comment, but the statement above lacks any information whatsoever. Sure, Kojima may finished Metal Gear Solid V, which is already due out this year, but what's his status with the company overall? What about the development of Silent Hills? (Poor Guillermo del Toro will never get a game made it seems.)

Short-lived.

The Bloodletting

Anonymous sources have told GameSpot that power struggles between Kojima and Konami have led to the studio's current status. One source said that once Phantom Pain ships, Kojima Productions will be disbanded, with current staff already being moved over to contractors from employee status. The studio is also operating under restricted communications access.

"After we finish MGSV, Mr. Kojima and upper management will leave Konami. They said their contract ends in December," the source told GameSpot. "At a team meeting, Mr Kojima explained that team have to be one and make a good game for fans."

With the loss of Kojima, we're seemingly at the end of the road for Konami as a traditional games publisher, with most of its talent leaving over the past few years. Kojima is not the only creator who walked out the door; LovePlus senior producer Akari Uchida and character designer Mino Taro announced their departure from Konami earlier this week. Long-time Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi left the publisher in March of last year. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and PES producer Dave Cox left the company a few months later, in August. PES UK team leader Jon Murphy left in September after 16 years at the company. Ninety-Nine Nights II and Blades of Time producer Tak Fujii rolled out in December.

"I've decided to break out on my own to have the freedom to make the kind of games I really want to make - the same kind I think fans of my past games want as well," Igarashi told IGN when he left.

It's safe to say that Konami is hemorrhaging its traditional games development talent. These are veterans with over a decade at the company, all simply deciding to call it quits within the last year or so. It points to a shift within Konami, a desire to leave classic game titles behind for proven AAA hits, mobile games, pachinko, and other gambling machines.

The future of Konami...

It's All Just (Free-To-Play) Business

A look at the publisher's last consolidated financial report for the nine months ended on December 31, 2014 shows a lack of focus on traditional games. Winning Eleven 2015 and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes were mentioned as having strong sales, but the rest of the successful titles mentioned in the Digital Entertainment segment were mobile games: Live Power Pro Baseball (Jikkyo Pawafuru Puro Yakyu), World Soccer Collection S, Dragon Collection, Crows × Worst, and Star Wars: Force Collection. Despite those successes, Digital Entertainment was still down revenue 5.1 percent year-over-year.

In contrast, Gaming & Systems, which covers Konami's slot machine business, was up 4.2 percent year-over-year, while the Pachinko and Pachiko Slot division nearly doubled its revenue compared to last year.

In its outlook for the rest of the fiscal year, Konami focused heavily on smartphones and tablets as the way forward.

"With the spread of smartphones and tablet PCs worldwide, the available means of providing games continue to diversify, and opportunities to reach an even greater audience for games are increasing," said the company in its outlook. "Against this background, our belief is that we can increase the number of "outlets" for the Konami Group's game content by taking advantage of opportunities presented by the emergence of new devices and developing our business around game content. We are further focusing our managerial resources on the development of content that we believe will become major hits in order to produce more hit content, especially in the native application market. Looking ahead, we will continue to expand our lineup."

All this before even mentioning traditional video games. The only titles mentioned? Metal Gear and Winning Eleven.

It looks like the talent is leaving because Konami isn't allowing them to make games that aren't aimed at mobile and aren't free-to-play. Mobile games are cheaper to produce and the potential chance on return is huge, so that's where Konami sees its future.

...everything gets treated like Bomberman.

Memories Trapped in the Attic

Which is a shame, because Konami is sitting on some classic franchises. In addition to Metal Gear and Winning Eleven, LovePlus is a big question mark, Castlevania seemingly ended with Lords of Shadow 2, Silent Hills may never come out, and the Bemani games continue on mobile and arcades. Outside of those major games, the publisher has seemingly given up on Zone of the Enders, Suikoden, Gradius, Ganbare Goemon, and Contra. Konami has also sat on the entire Hudson Soft catalog, including Bomberman, Adventure Island, Bonk's Adventure, and Far East of Eden. That's a ton of great titles someone could do something with; sadly, Konami isn't that someone.

So until we have confirmation on Kojima's status, it seems like we've seen the last of the Konami we know and love. Another classic publisher shifting with the times and leaving behind the fans that kept it running until now. Another one bites the dust as console development gets more expensive and starts to look less lucrative for these former giants.

Let's tip one out for Konami of old. Take a shot for Contra III, Super Bomberman, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Silent Hill 2, Dance Dance Revolution, Ganbare Goemon, and Metal Gear Solid. Take a drink for the great memories.

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Comments 42

  • Avatar for riderkicker #1 riderkicker 3 years ago
    The House of Metamorphic Force, Metal Gear Solid, Goemon, is but a husk of itself.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #2 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    As sad as I am to say it, I'd rather see them go out with a bang like Metal Gear Solid 5 then trudge along in mediocrity. I'll be telling my children of the days when Capcom and Konami made some of the best games on the planet, and they'll look at me for a split second before returning their attention to their phones. I hope Kojima finds a good home at another studio.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #3 CK20XX 3 years ago
    Yeah, losing Hudson twice over is what really bothers me the most about Konami's otherwise well-deserved demise.Edited 3 times. Last edited March 2015 by CK20XX
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #4 cldmstrsn 3 years ago
    Hmm I have heard lots of things and nothing really official and didn't even consider this take on it. Until I hear something official from Konami or Kojima I'm going to say that it seems Kojima just left the company as he pointed at a couple weeks ago saying this really would be his last Metal Gear.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #5 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @cldmstrsn Yep, I tried to make sure that people realize that this is still unconfirmed. The smoke is definitely there, but no one's seen the fire yet.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #6 cldmstrsn 3 years ago
    @CK20XX Haha I saw your comment on destructoid and didn't realize who the hell Hudson was till just now.
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  • Avatar for jzga #7 jzga 3 years ago
    Konami is going full nuclear and wild. Unbelievable.
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  • Avatar for TheLostSkeleton #8 TheLostSkeleton 3 years ago
    Yeah, I really, really hope that as Konami transitions out of gaming that they at least sell off some of their IP.

    They're sitting on all of Hudsonsoft, Castlevania, Sparkster, etc. They can get out of making games and focus on gambling/health spas all they want, just don't let these franchises sit and rot in a basement somewhere.
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  • Avatar for SpecialNewb #9 SpecialNewb 3 years ago
    As long as Silent Hills goes forward its all good. Maybe Konami will sell Suikoden to someone who gives a damn about it.
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  • Avatar for SpecialNewb #10 SpecialNewb 3 years ago
    Also the ArsTechnica article on this is much less alarmist.
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  • Avatar for RorschachCCCLX #11 RorschachCCCLX 3 years ago
    I think it's safe to say that Japan has abandoned the console market. As evidenced by Konami's shift toward free to play mobile development, Square-Enix's declaration that the next Final Fantasy would be the last traditional entry in the series before they too shifts to mobile. Nintendo finally buckled to share holder demands to get in the mobile space. It's sad to think the grand scale games will be a thing of the past, in their place will be small "free-to-play/pay-to-win" games which are cheaper to develop and offer more upside potential.
    I believe this to be another toll of the bell signaling the end console gaming globally. Gaming as a whole is about to change radically, all in service to the larger, more lucrative audience of casual gamers.
    It will soon be all Candy Crush Saga and no Elder Scrolls Saga.
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #12 Lord-Bob-Bree 3 years ago
    @RorschachCCCLX SE announced that? Where?

    Anyway, with the big players out, it will at least give the smaller ones room to enter and grow.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #13 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    I've made mention that the danger that truly endangered Japanese gaming the most was mobile; everything else restricted its ability to succeed; the shrinking buying power of the Japanese consumer, the diminishing returns on bigger tech, the double standard J-gaming bore like a cross last gen, but mobile...mobile disincintivizes anyone over there to even try once the tenative chain of success breaks.

    I've also made mention of how I've theorized that Kojima didn't wanna do any Metal Gear outside of a few entries, and would rather go on larks like Snatcher and Boktai, yet he feels obligated to do so given no guarentee of console game employment for his people if he didn't. More circumstantial evidence.

    Also, WTF @ announcing this well before the relase of V; how much of a hate-boner do the rest of the board have for him?
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  • Avatar for RedStripe #14 RedStripe 3 years ago
    So torn. Would love to see Konami and Capcom reappraise their approach and start to make use of the excellent franchises they seem intent on burying. Would also love to see Kojima spread his wings and do something that isn't Metal Gear, a series I've grow bored of, truth be told. Then again, if events like this sink Konami that'd be awfully depressing.

    Should Kojima strike out on his own or under a new aegis which he surely will, then I hope he finds himself an editor or positive restraining force of some kind. Kojima unleashed is a messy business.
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  • Avatar for RedStripe #15 RedStripe 3 years ago
    @SatelliteOfLove "I've also made mention of how I've theorized that Kojima didn't wanna do any Metal Gear outside of a few entries, and would rather go on larks like Snatcher and Boktai, yet he feels obligated to do so given no guarentee of console game employment for his people if he didn't. More circumstantial evidence."

    This a thousand times. I've hypocritically mentioned the buried franchises of Konami and Capcom, but I'd always prefer to see new ventures: let designers take risks, and even more so let them fail occasionally for god's sake.
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  • Avatar for MarinKarin #16 MarinKarin 3 years ago
    My first thought was "Finally! Now we can get something from Kojima other than Metal Gear games!" but I'm sure now Konami will make up the difference and just go crazy pumping out a bunch of Metal Gear games now they have one less senior position designer that might have gotten in the way of them bleeding the series even more dry.
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  • Avatar for gillijack #17 gillijack 3 years ago
    This whole thing is so weird when you think of Konami as a games publisher. They should focus on doing this well, but when you look at the corporate structure which has its finger in so many pies, it's unsurprising that there's so much conflict between its game makers and the big wigs.

    Like a late-stage star casting off material, hopefully, IGA and Kojima can regroup and bring together some of the talent that helped make their games.Edited March 2015 by gillijack
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  • Avatar for Manifaust #18 Manifaust 3 years ago
    If Kojima really is leaving, I hope he goes independent and creates a new original game. I love Metal Gear, but I think there's great potential if he takes his vision and voice to another direction, free from corporate ties.
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  • Avatar for Zero-Crescent #19 Zero-Crescent 3 years ago
    And don't forget about the Rock Revolution debacle. I remember hearing some scuttlebutt a while back that the only reason Rock Revolution was even made was to crap out some ammo to use in their lawsuit against Viacom (filed 2 months after revealing RR); claiming that the reason RR failed was due to Viacom crowding out competitors by infringing on Konami's Bemani patents (Not because RR unsurprisingly turned out to be a hot, flaming pile of garbage, of course). The lawsuit was settled out-of-court two years later.

    Still, it said a lot about Konami's management at the time that they were willing to put the reputation built up by Bemani games on the line (since the few people excited for RR were interested because Konami was the one that invented the plastic instrument genre) just to have an exhibit to present in a lawsuit.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #20 CK20XX 3 years ago
    @SpecialNewb I don't think it's wrong to be alarmist here. There's been a LOT of bad gaming news lately; Sony is still in trouble, Maxis is dead, Jeff Minter is being harassed, etc. In fact, we're probably in the midst of that long-prophecized industry crash already, and it'll probably end in the same way the 1983 one did, with consoles falling apart and the survivors taking refuge in the PC and mobile market, which even freaking Nintendo is finally reaching towards.
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  • Avatar for docexe #21 docexe 3 years ago
    Honestly, I think I will wait till any official announcement before jumping to conclusions.

    It will be sad if it’s true, but not surprising. Console gaming is languishing in Japan and has been for a long time already, and pretty much all the old guard of major Japanese developers is transitioning to mobile and leaving console games behind. Even Nintendo has finally decided to enter the space.

    It’s depressing given the amount of franchises that they are leaving behind as well, but there is not much that can be done.
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  • Avatar for danger.to.others #22 danger.to.others 3 years ago
    What about the development of Silent Hills? (Poor Guillermo del Toro will never get a game made it seems.)

    ===========

    Am I a bad person for that making me laugh?
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  • Avatar for danger.to.others #23 danger.to.others 3 years ago
    A smarter, well managed company would do both mobile AND console games. Apparently that's too complex a plan for most these publishers to go with.
    Their loss. If Kojima wants to make a game, he'll have no problem. Industry will line up at his door. If they did lose Kojima over reasons speculated in the article, it's their loss.
    Their stupid, stupid loss.
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  • Avatar for brodiejohn13 #24 brodiejohn13 3 years ago
  • Avatar for VotesForCows #25 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    I felt sick when I saw this. I'm a huge fan. Perhaps they will keep making Metal Gear, but I wouldn't be interested without Kojima there. Interesting to see what he does next though.
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  • Avatar for matthewjohnson31 #26 matthewjohnson31 3 years ago
    @CK20XX I don't even think it's an alarmist take. At a certain point brain-drain becomes basically irrevocable, and it's hard not to think that Konami is past that point now that (if Kojima is actually gone) they've basically lost all of their talent. It's only reasonable to think that Konami going forward won't look much if at all like Konami as we've known it.

    I don't know if I buy the comparisons to 1983, though, for reasons that I would have to spend more time formulating before I put them all down. In the meantime, congratulations Konami for managing to be more depressing than Sega!

    (Maybe Kojima/Igarashi et al could start a company called Ultra? Or was that just a Western thing?)
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #27 himuradrew 3 years ago
    As an old school gamer, this makes me sad. :(

    Nothing against mobile games and the people who enjoy them, I still want and enjoy old school games. I'm going to miss the old Konami.

    As a thought maybe Konami should shift to making games for the portable consoles?
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #28 Captain-Gonru 3 years ago
    @RorschachCCCLX@docexe The one difference I see with Nintendo, as opposed to some of the others moving into mobile, is their approach. If we believe what's being said (which is all we really can do, short of all donning tinfoil hats), they are at least moving into mobile IN ADDITION TO, and not instead of, their current console space. This is backed up by the new console announcement (or announcement of a forthcoming announcement) alongside the mobile news. With Konami, the article had quotes about diversifying their game platform targets, but then only mentioned mobile stuff.
    There is a shift, to be sure, but I'm not yet ready to call it a crash.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #29 KaiserWarrior 3 years ago
    And another one bites the dust.

    The days of video games -- as anything other than mindless mobile games built to milk uncaring, largely uninterested, super-casual consumers of every possible coin -- are numbered. It's a damn shame, because today it's easier than ever to produce a high-quality take on classic gameplay for low cost (as evidenced by a number of successful indie projects), but the nature of the corporate system won't allow the big publishers that hold all of the classic IP to do that. It might make them money, but it wont make them the maximum possible amount of money, thus it's non-viable when they have to answer to shareholders.

    And so we have all of the great minds behind gaming's golden years leaving the stables, striking out on their own to make the excellent games they want to make without being obligated to make high-profit, low-quality mobile detritus thanks to "the way business works".
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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #30 Mikki-Saturn 3 years ago
    I could not be more disappointed with the state of video games over the last 7-8 years. I'm planning to get a PS4 later this year, but unless things turn around I suspect that will be the last console I buy (well... maybe that Nintendo NX will be the last, actually). Other than Nintendo's output, every franchise I care about is either dead or altered beyond recognition. That wouldn't matter if there were tons of interesting new IPs coming out - but there aren't and there never will be again. It's sad to see Konami self destruct. But the saddest thing of all is that it isn't just Konami - it's the entire Japanese industry.
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  • Avatar for alexb #31 alexb 3 years ago
    A clear sign of the times, sadly.
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  • Avatar for NYCAlex #32 NYCAlex 3 years ago
    Here's hoping someone buys Konami
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  • Avatar for christopherhughes97 #33 christopherhughes97 3 years ago
    "Well, what do you know? I guess it really will be his last Metal Gear game." - said by Konami in evil Lex Luthor voice
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  • Avatar for docexe #34 docexe 3 years ago
    @Captain-Gonru Well, it remains to be seen what the NX will be and how successful it will be. If it sells as poorly as the Wii U, Nintendo will very likely leave console gaming behind. If it sells on the 3DS range or better, it might carve its own niche and Nintendo will continue in console gaming for another generation at least. But even if it actually sells well, you have to wonder if it will have any effect in the dedicated console market in Japan. If the PS4 sales are any indication, it’s dubious that anything will manage to reactivate it.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #35 cldmstrsn 3 years ago
    RIP Silent Hills we hardly knew ye. Well at least the game that would have been made with Kojima, still not sure if he would be working on that but all signs point to no.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #36 Captain-Gonru 3 years ago
    @docexe As I understand it, the home console market in Japan may be waning, but the portable market is still going strong, much on the back of the 3DS releases. If the NX ends up being some form of the "hybrid" console that everyone thinks it is based on, frankly, nothing, then there may be life yet. It just seems too big an industry to just wither up overnight. Edited March 2015 by Captain-Gonru
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #37 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    @KaiserWarrior

    Yup. PC will act as a redoubt for the accumulated heritage of decades-old game design wisdom. If anything, it shows as a bright gleaming beacon in this fog for everyone, even Japanese companies. Edited March 2015 by SatelliteOfLove
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  • Avatar for standing8 #38 standing8 3 years ago
    A Kojima helmed Metal Gear is one of the cornerstones for me with every console generation. This is a sad day. I'm hoping Koji is able to make the games he truly wants now.
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  • Avatar for docexe #39 docexe 3 years ago
    @Captain-Gonru Well, it hasn’t exactly been an overnight process. Rather, it has been somewhat lengthy but continuous since the previous generation due to a multitude of factors: The Wii primarily catching the attention of casual gamers that later migrated to smartphones, the PS3 stumbling out of the gate, the X360 never gaining any traction whatsoever in Japan, Japanese developers in general being unable to cope with the requirements of HD development, the DS and PSP dominating the Japanese market after the PS2 bowed out, Japan being ahead of the rest of the world when it came to mobile devices even before the introduction of the smartphone (thus most receptive to gaming on the phone), Japan being more receptive to micro-transactions and F2P given their introduction in the Asian markets before the rest of the world, the very particular idiosyncrasies and life conditions of the Japanese population particularly in the urban areas, etc.,etc.

    In some ways you can say that the Japanese market completed a transition from home console domination to handheld domination in the previous generation, and it’s now completing a transition from handheld to mobile. Now, I don’t think this necessarily spells the doom of home consoles as a whole in the rest of the world. As long as publishers like EA and Activision continue to make money with AAA games and as long as the preferred method of playing those games is in the couch with some device connected to the TV, consoles will remain. The question is if something like streaming or the Steam machines will eventually supplant them, but that seems unlikely in the short term.
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  • Avatar for PaulTheGreater #40 PaulTheGreater 3 years ago
    I'm confident that, wherever Kojima goes, talent will follow. It's a shame that he's having to leave the company that's done so well by his abilities. What I wonder is what this means for the FOX Engine; if Kojima goes, would Konami even let him use it?

    Fortunately there are other engines capable of the same level of visual fidelity (hell, UE4 is free to use now), but to have all that work put in and not be able to keep it...unfortunate. But whatever he does, I'm sure it'll be big.
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  • Avatar for detten17 #41 detten17 3 years ago
    @Monkey-Tamer

    I gotta agree as well. One can only hope we get some innovation from both parties, who knows.
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  • Avatar for Blackcompany #42 Blackcompany 3 years ago
    Senior Content Officer. Exec content office. Good lord its no wonder AAA studios are slowly going broke. How many Suits does it take to (not) make a game?
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