Last nights game awards came with a shocking little sting in the tail for Konami.
Konami might have been able to console themselves with Best Action Adventure Game and Best Musical Score, both for Metal Gear Solid V. But this is the Game Awards, and Mr. Geoff Keighley is nothing if not willing to sacrifice something or someone on the altar in a bid to irritate SOMEONE – perhaps the viewers, with all the shilling of Star Wars Battlefront and a mobile app utterly irrelevant to most of the viewing world. This year, it was the turn of Konami to feel the Wrath of the Dorito-Pope.
The award for best action-adventure should have been collected by Hideo Kojima, but instead it was accepted by Kiefer Sutherland, voice of Big Boss. Did Kojima miss a plane? Was he taken ill? Did he just get lost on the trek back from the mysterious place known as his own colon? I jest – well, half-jest. Still, no to all – turns out, Konami barred Hideo Kojima from accepting the award as part of his leaving arrangements. His name had been removed from the packaging, therefore Hideo Kojima was no longer the face of Metal Gear Solid, and therefore barred from accepting an award for his and his teams hard work before an audience of his peers.
This could all have been brushed under the carpet and we wouldn’t have known anything about it – except, Keighley told us exactly why Hideo Kojima wasn’t there.
Then something happened which must have made the blood of every Konami executive run cold – well, colder than usual. The industry, their peers and associates, the press and everyone else in attendance… booed Konami. They actually booed Konami. Across social media, and chat clients, the clarion call of Mr. Sterling’s “F**Konami” rose like a wave of anger and resentment. Even in arguably Konami’s hour of triumph, they had still inexplicably managed to snatch defeat from the very maw of victory.
To say this has been the rotten cherry atop a fetid decaying sundae would not be unkind, however.
For the whole year, Konami has somehow managed to alienate and irritate people of all stripes. From cancelling Silent Hills, convincing Guillermo Del Toro that it will never be worth his while making or being involved in a video game (Del Toro is a person whom I am sure the medium was made for, he has the imagination and the storytelling chops for it), to removing the rather decent P.T. Concept Demo from the PlayStation Store for “reasons”, right down to the announcement of Castlevania returning… as a Pachinko Machine (Because we don’t want another 2D Castlevania, I mean it’s not like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night cruised by its crowdfunding goal or anything is it? Oh…), and screwing up Pro Evolution Soccer on PC because why would PC Users want the PS4 and XBox One versions of the game? Why not give them the old-gen ports?
Konami has made it clear it is moving away from triple-A development. And that’s fine – it doesn’t have to make big video games anymore if it doesn’t want to.
Thing is, what if someone down the line wants to make a new game for, say, the Nintendo NX in five years time? What if they go, “Let’s make a new Castlevania!” – most businesses would rather leave the door open to facilitate a U-Turn if the need and/or opportunity arises. Good business strategy would dictate that you leave the crowd wanting more, eager for your return to the main stage.
Konami has instead decided to shut that door. And then burn the house down. And burn the bridge that connects that house to the rest of the world.
And this will have repercussions; even in mobile apps and Pachinko Machines, reputation is everything. Ask the likes of Zynga how they feel today, as compared to five years ago. Konami has systematically destroyed its own reputation, to the point that the games industry present and the gaming market watching The Game Awards all came together in unison to boo Konami for contractually forcing Hideo Kojima away from an awards event. If there was ever a sign that Kojima’s departure from Konami was necessary, this was it. And make no mistake – any one company present at The Game Awards would have loved to snatch Hideo Kojima up for a future project or several… dozen.
Perhaps this was the point – make it harder for Hideo Kojima to get employment elsewhere. The thing is, it did not work. Whilst I usually take a dim view of supposedly private arrangements and deals being made public, this is one occasion where Geoff Keighley was probably right to call it out. At least, morally, in any case. Whatever happens, an award-winning games director like Hideo Kojima can and will have his pick of any major development studio or publisher you could think of. All Konami did with this barring was simply delay the inevitable – Kojima is leaving, and he will find employment and funding elsewhere. He just couldn’t mingle and discuss his plans amongst an audience where all the major publishers and developers were represented. Still, knowing what happened, you can be sure most of them will be reaching out to Kojima privately.
And what good did this do Konami? Nothing. It’s one thing to piss off your consumers – but quite another to earn the ire of your peers. Konami’s name is now dirt; actually, probably worth less than dirt. Dirt serves a useful function. Konami is fast making itself an irritating irrelevance. Denial is a river on which Konami as a whole has been sailing all year, but this was the moment they fell off the waterfall. I can’t imagine any company coming back from being humiliated in front of such a large and representative audience; that damage is done, and Konami wasn’t in a position of strength to begin with.
Still, Konami will always have these two awards to console itself with as it slips into the annals of gaming history, a reminder that once upon a time people did sort of respect them and they did make content that was critically well-received.
Right before they hit the lever.