Between the cancellation of Silent Hills and the ugly collapse of its relationship with Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, 2015 has been a rough year for Konami. Based on a recent Nikkei report, translated by Kotaku, it's actually even worse than that if you work there.
According to the article, Kojima Productions is now known as "Number 8 Production Department," and that computers in that part of the company are not connected to the internet, to prevent communication with the outside world. Most Konami employees don't have their own email addresses, but are instead assigned randomized addresses that are changed every few months in order to prevent headhunting. Cameras in the halls monitor employee movements, and those who take too long for lunch are shamed by having their names announced to the entire company; employees who are no longer "useful" in game development roles are assigned jobs as security guards, cleaning staff, or at a pachi-slot machine factory.
Things started to go downhill, according to the report, after the launch of the mobile game Dragon Collection, which was a big hit—and, more to the point, a big moneymaker with low production costs. That kicked off the shift to the "mobile first" strategy we heard about earlier this year, when CEO Hideki Hayakawa described mobile as "the platform which is closest to our customers."
At the same time, the report claims that the production cost of Metal Gear Solid 5 now exceeds $80 million, a not-unheard-of budget, but astronomical for a company aiming for a more lean operation. Interestingly, that ties in with a report that surfaced last week, via NeoGAF, in which Metal Gear Solid composer and singer Rika Muranaka said Kojima's free-spending ways were a major factor in the split between him and Konami. She later clarified that she doesn't actually know why he left, although seemed to stand by her initial reasoning.
"What [Kojima] loves is to create the best game possible for the fans. His focus was concerned on that of creating what will be a masterpiece," she said. "Konami, on the other hand, is a business that is focused on budget and profit. So I simply expressed that maybe that has something to do with it... Konami is a business, and they have to look at things from a business standpoint and not just from a creative side. Creativity is important, but so is keeping your business afloat."
Konami apologized to its fans in May for causing "anxiety," and also clarified that it wasn't entirely focused on mobile games, but for fans of Konami's AAA output the Nikkei report will do little to allay the sense that something isn't quite right inside the house that Snake built.