You’ve all heard the story. The evil Konami got rid of the innocent Hideo Kojima and was so mean to the poor starving artist. A narrative right out of a Dickens novel. In the collective conscious of gamers, Konami is the dastardly villain and Kojima is the poor innocent lamb. But rarely do gamers think about the finances of the company. They assume that Konami is some evil, terrible, company and they were in the wrong. But when you look at the numbers, the reason was clear why Kojima is gone. It was merely financial.
What the Konami haters forget was the Metal Gear Solid 5 was one of the most expensive games ever made at 80 million dollars. As the article notes, other games like Borderlands ($30 million) and Watch Dogs ($68 million) cost less. This was also 5 months before the game was actually out. Moreover, there was a lot of cut content, including a “Mission 51” and a Chapter 3, which would have had a whole new area. The game was going to be far more expensive than the original $80 million figure.
Currently, the game has shipped over 6 million units and is now the best selling game in the series. But how much of that is due to the drama at Konami. What if sales were higher because of the breakup between Konami and Kojima. It’s not to different from album sells increasing after the artist’s death. Would the game have sold worse if this drama didn’t occur. There is some evidence of this as Ground Zero had the worst launch in Japan of any of the main games. The game sold half of what the previous Metal Gear Solid game sold. While it was a PSP game (which does well in Japan along with other handheld and mobile games), it likely gave the company pause. The company would go on the say that game sales were “solid”, but has only said the game shipped one million units. Despite the launch of the game, Konami’s Digital Entertainment business saw a drop in sales. If people weren’t rushing out to buy Ground Zero, would they be all that excited for The Phantom Pain?
So from Konami’s perspective, there were two major issues
- The game was getting very expensive
- Sales of Phantom Pain were underwhelming and sales of Ground Zero could also lag.
If the end, Konami did the most rational thing. Pull the plug on production and held Kojima accountable.
What are the point of these developers and directors? It’s not to engage in their fantasies and make art. They are there to make the company money. If you are a cashier at a grocery store, the company is paying you to add value to the customer. You collect the money, give the customer a nice big smile, and help them if they need it. You aren’t there to “express yourself.” Likewise, Kojima isn’t employed to create “his vision.” If anytime his vision clashes with the profits of the company, then the company, not the vision, wins. The Phantom Pain was a product of that. The company was going to keep throwing money at a game that would still perform worse than other mainline Metal Gear Solid games. Had Konami not created some controversy, sales would have likely been disappointing, and the game would have still been expensive to make.
Of course, Kojima is working now on Death Stranding which is being published by Sony. From the trailers, I expect the same situation will happen. Kojima will make an expensive game and sells will be less than stellar. The game looks more like an “art piece” than a game. Kojima has been riding on the name of a successful series for a while now. Now we have him working on a new game which looks to be more self indulging and doesn’t carry the game brand name. This could very well be a financial bomb just waiting to happens.
In the end, the game gods always end up becoming false prophets. I expect Kojima will be the same.