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Should We Boycott The Phantom Pain Over an Erasure of Kojima’s Legacy?

“Building the future and keeping the past alive are one in the same thing.” – Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.

Editorial by Ravi Singh, Posted on March 19, 2015


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not intended to be an active attempt to persuade fans to organize a boycott. It is simply an explanation of why actions committed by a corporation to marginalize its creative staff has led to this author cancelling his pre-orders. The events which has inspired this editorial are still developing.

UPDATE 04/08/2015: Konami has since returned “A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME” to promotional materials for Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. We have also received statements from people who work with the team formerly-known as Kojima Productions stating that we should not boycott Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Due to Konami backpedaling some of their poor decisions and statements which seem to suggest that the development team themselves will benefit from pre-orders of The Phantom Pain, I have since reversed my cancellation and have just pre-ordered a copy. The general point of this editorial remains valid.


It is quite depressing for me to write this. Perhaps this is a bit too early. Perhaps this idea will do more harm to the parties that I care about rather than the entity that I would love to see getting fucked over for making the disrespectful decisions they have made recently. I felt uncomfortable having pre-ordered Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain from several retailers. Before I sat down with a cup of coffee to type this out, I cancelled all of my pre-orders.

I may have acted prematurely, but recent events have made me take action in the only way I could. Kojima Productions, while still actively finishing up their promising work on The Phantom Pain, no longer “exist” for the public eye. Their logos have also been taken out nearly all promotional materials online. Seeing “A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME” erased from something called “THE LEGACY COLLECTION” really illustrates what is insolent about Konami’s recent actions. Konami is attempting to erase a legacy.

THOSE WHO DO NOT EXIST

News sites reporting on this seem to be focusing on Hideo Kojima no longer being at Konami. This is not the issue for me. Shit happens. Kojima is well-known around gaming circles and even if he decides to take the crowd-funding route, he will likely do fine on his own. Hell, perhaps he can even get into filmmaking, his original dream. The rest of the development team hopefully will also do well in their post-Konami careers, with their time at Kojima Productions surely to be a badge of honor on their resumes.

Hideo Kojima is sure to have a bright future outside of Konami without Metal Gear.

Some fans too seem to act like there is a silver lining to all of this and at face point this is understandable. I have always advocated for the end of the Metal Gear canon. While Konami seems likely to continue the series without Kojima–possibly using Konami Los Angeles Studio, formerly Kojima Productions Los Angeles–I am willing to bet that most fans will definitely point out Kojima’s absence especially considering the way they are treating the creative mind now. Those obsessed with lore may be insistent of METAL GEAR SOLID 6: IRANIC CONTRA being part of a canon but most of us will rightfully disregard it as fan-milking bullshit.

Likewise, I have also advocated for Hideo Kojima to take a break from Metal Gear and work on something else. I have even joked in my video The Reality of Metal Gear Solid 2 that “they might as well call Kojima Productions METAL GEAR PRODUCTIONS instead.” No longer being an employee of Konami, Kojima will be free to work on a completely new intellectual property. Unfortunately, this does mean he can no longer work on Snatcher, Policenauts, Boktai, or Zone of the Enders. Still, seeing a brand new game idea from the mind of Hideo Kojima seems exciting.

Konami stripped off anything human from its face when it wiped away “A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.”

The problem I have is with removing credit where credit is due. Kojima Productions, not Konami as a whole, worked on Metal Gear titles such as the recently released Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. The creative mind of Hideo Kojima, not the corporate heads of Konami, established a series that while flawed at times, serves as some of the most influential interactive entertainment available.

Not only are they trying to alter the history of a beloved series of work but insider sources have told GameSpot that Kojima Productions is now encountering a “communications block” while they are demoted to a contract-based relationship with Konami, which ends December 2015 after the release of The Phantom Pain. If true, that means Hideo Kojima and the rest of the talented team cannot even communicate with fans for the rest of the year–including the five-and-a-half months between now and the release of The Phantom Pain.

“Along with the restricted communications, key developers at the studio, such as Hideo Kojima, will now have limited opportunities to lend their appearance to promotions of the studio’s upcoming game, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.”
- via GameSpot

If true, they are also taking away the voices of the creative minds behind the work they are trying to sell.

BUSINESS KOJIMA AND CREATIVE KOJIMA

Some speculate what exactly happened in the fall out between Kojima Productions and Konami. Truth is we do not know what has happened. Hopefully we will eventually, but as of right now we can only get word from Konami and “insider sources” that may or may not be true. So what if I’m just being a fanboy and the corporate overlords of Konami are doing the best they can to rectify a situation that became hostile from Hideo Kojima’s own doing? I believe this is absolutely not the case. I come to this conclusion based on Hideo Kojima’s past with Konami.

Hideo Kojima has always been on Team Konami.

Creative minds dropping from intrusive corporate environments is common in nearly all entertainment industries. Video gaming is no exception and many fans have noted the creators of influential characters and game series such as Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Dead or Alive, Resident Evil left or were fired. With Hideo Kojima frequently expressing his desire to end or leave the Metal Gear series, it would not have been a surprise if he was let-go.

Konami however seemed to understand the importance of Hideo Kojima and gave him his own development studio to head and even made him Vice President of Konami. Thus Kojima was not only a creative head but also a businessman. This conflict led him to make decisions that would often restrict his creative self in favor of something that would benefit the company.

“I’m a creator at heart, but at the same time I also have to manage the business aspect of it, figure out how to sell the game. I’m still trying to find that balance – it’s very delicate. How do you put in enough to make sure it sells, while remaining true to your vision? […] I did have the feeling that I wanted to end the series, but looking back at it now as a producer, I think as long as people want to keep on playing it, I want to keep on meeting that demand. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
- Hideo Kojima, November 29, 2011, via Official PlayStation Magazine UK (archived on The Snake Soup)

Being both a creative and business executive also meant a large work load with a lack of sleep. Hideo Kojima was not only responsible for his own original works that were appropriately labeled “A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME” but also producing other titles such as Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. He actively worked in promoting products, constantly having to fly around for business meetings and networking with westerners to promote new business opportunities. For fuck’s sake, the FOX Engine was developed for usage by Konami outside of his own works.

Hideo Kojima dedicated time and energy to promoting products for Konami’s business in addition to creative persuits.

The point here I am trying to make is that Kojima was a team player for Konami. Decisions such as changing his unpopular original ending to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, producing Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, releasing Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes as a separate product as well as consistently deciding to develop a new Metal Gear game every time he decides to leave the series since 2001… seem to be Hideo Kojima giving in to his business self as opposed to his creative self. This is not a man who refuses to cooperate with corporate decisions.

Hideo Kojima weeks ago stated again that he was leaving the Metal Gear series. Perhaps Konami felt that his conviction was much stronger now than it has been every time he made this claim. Still, Kojima also voiced the fact that he was to produce future Metal Gear titles–and Kojima was to be involved in the Silent Hill reboot with Guillermo Del Toro, having already led the development of the virally popular PlayStation 4 exclusive “playable teaser” for it, P.T. Needless to say, Kojima may have finally decided to be firmly against the idea of being actively involved in future Metal Gear titles but surely would have been willing to work with Konami towards a financially beneficial future.

THE ONUS IS ON KONAMI

Konami’s decision to cease relations with Kojima is again not the problem. The problem is their pathetic attempt to reclaim ownership over Metal Gear by erasing Kojima Productions and Hideo Kojima himself. Again, this is a body of work composing of thirty years. As someone who works in public relations and has had experience working for a company that completely reshuffled its employees, renaming Kojima Productions Los Angeles is the only decision that can be defended from that narrative. Removing Kojima Productions from works past and future in addition to Hideo Kojima’s name can only be defended if Kojima was caught doing something unpopular that would make Konami look bad.

On the contrary, what Konami has done and is doing is itself giving them a bad name. Their refusal to comment outside of a vague statement that they “will continue to develop and support Metal Gear products” also adds uncertainty to the entire scenario. Will Hideo Kojima retain the creative control he had over The Phantom Pain as he did before? Are corporate goons going to be looking over the shoulder of Kojima Productions in the next few months to release? Unfortunately, we may have to wait until December 2015 to hear Kojima Productions’ side of the story.

A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME

Fans on the internet are voicing their anger and sadness over the news. The hashtag #AHIDEOKOJIMAGAME is trending on social media, with fans attempting to make Konami very aware that these recent actions are not sitting well within the community. The popular subreddit /r/MetalGearSolid has added “A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME” above the Metal Gear Solid logo on the top of their layout. My reply to the new official Metal Gear Twitter received more Retweets and Favorites than the original Tweet I was replying to. I understand this reaction and feel the same way many of these fans do, but I prefer to take action with my wallet as opposed to hashtags.

As I have stated before, it may be too early to make a solid decision on what we can do to hurt Konami without hurting the soon-to-be-disregarded Kojima Productions. As much as I have been looking forward to The Phantom Pain, this entire incident has left me feeling uncomfortable and I felt it necessary to end my pre-orders for this installment to my favorite video game series. I have also removed our minor ad for pre-ordering The Phantom Pain on our front page. If I find out this actually hurts Kojima Productions I will revert my decision.

These are the people I want to support, not some corporate hacks who think success depends on a good shoeshine.

What I want as a fan is clear. I want to hear from Hideo Kojima and others on the development team. If GameSpot’s insider source is to be trusted, this may mean waiting until December 2015 when the contract between Kojima Productions and Konami ends. I want Konami to revert its decision to erase Kojima’s name from works already done, in addition to The Phantom Pain. I want it clear that purchasing The Phantom Pain supports Kojima Productions, not just Konami Digital Entertainment. If GameSpot’s insider source is to be believed, they at least are going to continue to work hard and give us their best.

“At a team meeting, Mr Kojima explained that team have to be one and make a good game for fans.”
- via GameSpot

What I can say with certainty is whereas before I may have been open to the idea of new Metal Gear titles without Kojima’s involvement, I am absolutely not going to support a business that decides to throw away someone’s nearly thirty year legacy. I also am absolutely withholding from purchasing any official merchandise from now on. There was a proper way of ceasing relations with Hideo Kojima and his team. This was the most impertinent way they could have done this, outside of outright slander.

Fans are not stupid. Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and the pending Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain have, and always will be, HIDEO KOJIMA GAMES. “Konami” is just the publisher. When people think of films, literature and music, is it the artists behind these works that is held dearly to fans or the corporate entities behind the major studios, publishers and record labels?

Konami can try to wipe Kojima’s name from the internet but they will never fucking delete the name from the game boxes that we already own as well as our fond memories of the series. Konami has, however, successfully wiped out the potential money they would get from me and other fans of the series who will surely be looking forward to support future endeavors from Kojima and others from Kojima Productions instead.

There are 44 comments in our discussion thread.

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