PIXEL BURN – Kojima vs Konami

In which Matt ever-so-slightly loses his cool.
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Hello my name’s Matt and this is Pixel Burn, where I usually take a sarcastic look at some of the more important, interesting or irritating things to have happened in the week’s gaming news. Except when one big topic covers all three of those things, as is the case today.

Dominating events this week was the shocking news that Hideo Kojima, games industry giant and bonkers creator of the equally-bonkers Metal Gear Solid series, is leaving Japanese publisher Konami after almost thirty years of working there. Although calling Konami a publisher is a bit of a stretch nowadays, what with most of their business being in real estate, gymnasiums and slot machines of all things.

According to an anonymous source inside Konami itself, a falling out between Konami higher-ups and Kojima Production has led to Konami slapping the team with a Communications block, restricting their access to corporate email, internet and telephone calls. The anonymous source also claims the management at Kojima Productions will disband once Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is finished, given that their contracts are due to expire in December.

Kojima had recently announced that Metal Gear Solid V would be his last Metal Gear game, but then he said the exact same thing after Metal Gear Solids 2, 3 and 4 as well so nobody took it too seriously. I guess we’ve got no choice now.

And yes you heard me correctly when I said “contracts” back there. Because as well as having all their avenues of communication clamped-down on harder than a giant robot stamping on a cyborg ninja, the staff at Kojima Productions – including Hideo Kojima himself – have all had their employment status downgraded from permanent staff to “contractor.” Kojima’s name is also no longer on this list of Konami corporate officers. Meanwhile the official Kojima Productions twitter account has been changed into a generic Metal Gear one, and is currently encouraging people to follow a brand new separate Metal Gear twitter account setup by Konami.

And Kojima’s own personal twitter account has been ominously silent during all this, meaning the world has no idea whatsoever about what he’s been eating or what movies he’s been watching.

Everything I’ve just told you however isn’t even the worst part of all this. You see Konami aren’t content to merely downgrade Kojima Productions to the status of glorified temps before getting rid of them all, oh no. No, no, no. Konami are WAY more petty than that.

How petty exactly? Well, take a look at this screencap of the official Metal Gear Solid website from about a month ago. Notice how these box images for Metal Gear Solid The Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes and the Metal Gear Legacy collection all say “A Hideo Kojima Game.” As it has on pretty much every Metal Gear title since Metal Gear Solid 2, barring stuff made by other studios like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

If you look at the site NOW however you’ll see Konami have stripped Kojima’s name from all the box art, in a literal Josef Stalin-esque airbrushing of history. They even took his name off the Metal Gear Solid Legacy collection.

If that weren’t insult enough, the URL for the Kojima Productions website now goes straight to an official Metal Gear page while the url for Kojima Productions LA redirects to Konami’s main site. For all intents and purposes Kojima Productions no longer officially exists, and it seems Konami would also like people to forget they ever did.

This depressing development follows an announcement by Konami that it’s restructuring its production to what it calls “a headquarters-controlled system,” for reasons stuffed so full of corporate jargon you could charge people hundreds of dollars to listen to you read it, by telling them it was a business seminar. Because of this restructure Konami believes its own name should now be front and centre of all branding and production efforts, and not that of individual studios like Kojima Productions.

Yeah, because Konami has always been the first thing I think of whenever I hear:

And not just some word slapped on the corner of a game box that everyone ignores. Sure, Konami might own Metal Gear in a legal sense, but in every way that actually matters it 100% absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt belongs to Hideo Kojima.

Artistically, narratively, philosophically and more, the Metal Gear series has been synonymous with Kojima’s unique creative talent since it’s debut on the NES in 1987. Kojima IS Metal Gear and Metal Gear IS Kojima. You can no more separate them than you can separate Shigeru Miyamoto’s influence from The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Brothers.

And the sheer hubris of Konami to think they can do that would’ve been amusing, had they merely wanted to make new Metal Gear games without Kojima. But to also pull this 1984 Ministry of Truth bullshit? That is downright disgusting, and frankly a fucking insult to one of the industry’s most talented and respected creators. Even if Metal Gear isn’t your particular cup of tea, forcibly amputating an artist from their creative legacy – all to placate some fragile corporate ego – shouldn’t sit right with any of you.

There will be future games bearing the “Metal Gear Solid” title by the way. In fact Konami are already recruiting for a sequel to Metal Gear Solid 5. Without Kojima however these sequels will be in-name-only to Metal Gear fans, who can nevertheless take a small comfort in the fact that Kojima is staying with Konami until Metal Gear Solid V is released this September. According to the anonymous source mentioned earlier, at a recent team meeting;

“Mr Kojima explained that [the] team have to be one and make a good game for fans.”

Speaking of which, the die-hard Metal Gear fans amongst you are probably feeling like your very heart and soul have been ripped out right now. That it’s all downhill from here and all you can look forward to is a string of inferior sequels, outsourced to some western developers who cannot grasp the essence of what made the original games so great.

To which I say, without any malice or sarcasm…Welcome to Silent Hill.

Hang on a second.

SHIT! Kojima’s next game was going to be a new Silent Hill!

What’s going to happen to that now?! And will Guillermo Del Toro and Norman Reedus stick around for it? Hah, who am I kidding? Not fucking likely squire! Kojima’s the one who convinced them both to join the project. Hell, he’s probably the one who even got the damn thing off the ground in the first place.

You see this is what it’s like, Metal Gear fans. This is your future! Welcome! Welcome to the bleak existence of a Silent Hill fan, where hope is a lie and all your dreams are fucking dead!

Welcome to seeing your favourite series farmed out to a succession of clueless developers who couldn’t find their own fucking arses if their sphincter was on fire.

Welcome to mindless cynical spin-offs so thematically jarring you should be allowed to sue them for whiplash.

Welcome to a Metal Gear Solid cart racer! Although that…could be kind of cool I suppose? Ahem, anyway.

Welcome to having all the core themes of your beloved series either completely misinterpreted, dumbed down for cretins, trampled into the dirt or disregarded entirely!

Welcome to a rare attempt by a developer to try something interesting with the franchise…being relegated to a system barely any of the series’ fans had a reason to own!

Welcome to a clumsy HD collection with totally different voice actors who, while talented, completely fail to reconcile their performances with the intended tone of the originals.

Welcome to having all you knew and loved spat-upon and degraded by a pitiless cabal of money-grubbing parasites, for the glory of the almighty dollar!

Welcome to having Pyramid Head turn up in nearly every single fucking- wait, no, hang on.

Does Metal Gear have anything like Pyramid Head? Y’know some cool, intimidating antagonist who was used brilliantly in one single game, but would be boring and stupid if they kept coming back. Come on Metal Gear fans, help me out here.

Vulcan Raven? Fortune? Vamp?

Psycho Mantis! That’s it! Imagine Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid 1 coming back time and time and time again, in every new Metal Gear sequel from now until infinity. Psycho Mantis walking past a window! Psycho Mantis popping out of a cardboard box! Psycho Mantis calling you on the Codec to say “wooooooo!”. ALL FOR NO THEMATICALLY OR NARRATIVELY-COHERENT REASON WHATSO-FUCKING-EVER!

So where does this leave Kojima and his team? What will they do? Where will they go? Who knows. I mean Kojima can literally walk into a new job anywhere in the industry by virtue of his name alone. It’s practically his entire resume.

The rest of Kojima Productions also have good chances of getting new jobs elsewhere quite quickly. Unless Kojima keeps them all together and reforms Kojima Productions as a truly independent studio.

Imagine what they could do.


That’s all for this episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and Hideo Kojima know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then you’ll be chuffed to know I’m taking a much-needed break next week. Only for a week though, and then I’ll be back. In the meantime, as always…you may depart.



About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.