Konami, Hideo Kojima, and Chinese Head Transplants

Let’s talk about Konami: Konami has been in the news that past few days (and months, really) due to major upheaval in their video game division and questions about their overall business strategy. Konami is a large, multi-national corporation based out of Japan. They create all kinds of entertainment… uh, things. Things like slot machines, and trading cards, and toys, and, of course, video games. According to Wikipedia, the company was originally founded as a Jukebox repair business in ’69 (by their current Chairman), so they’ve come a long way. Oh! I almost forgot, Konami also operates a bunch of fitness clubs all around Japan. So that makes perfect business sense.

A few months back, a rift between Hideo Kojima (creator of my favorite game franchise, Metal Gear) and Konami was reported. Then, in the past few days, it was reported that Konami is scrapping their next Silent Hills game, a heavily anticipated game that Kojima was helming in a partnership with Hollywood’s Guillermo Del Torro. No one knows if Kojima was fired (duh, he was; he’s now working as a contractor for Konami in order to finish up MGS5, at which point he will exit Konami permanently), or why Guillermo Del Torro’s partnership with Kojima/Konami fizzled out. Maybe Del Torro, who spins a tight yarn, couldn’t deal with Kojima’s ball of fur style. Or maybe contractor-Kojima backed out of Silent Hills after being fired, and Del Torro followed suit, aligning with Kojima. Who the f’ knows.

Ultimately, this all comes down to money. I postulate that Konami made a business decision that they couldn’t deal with the vagaries of Kojima’s art direction any longer (MGS 5 had seen many delays; MGS 4, after all, was released nearly a decade ago). Which brings us to Konami delisting from the NYSE. Their digital business (video games) has shrunk in the past year, but margins have risen. When I read through their fiscal report, I can’t help but think the rise in margin is due to smaller titles (often mobile) that require far less money to create than a Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Torro triple-A video game mega-franchise. Meanwhile, their slot machine business has improved 200% YOY. My point here is, Konami is a big corporation, beholden to their shareholders, who, like any big corporation, want to improve margins. Period. Big video-games, like Hollywood blockbusters, are super-risky (just ask anyone who worked on Duke Nukem For Ever).

(Now, none of this explains why they would operate a near-zero-margin fitness business. That shit makes no sense.)

My meta-point: I do not expect to see any major game productions out of Konami again. Ever. I do expect a lot of simple and probably shitty MGS games built on old technology. Sad, that.

So, what about the Chinese head transplants, you ask? Well, apparently a crazy doctor who claims he can (and soon will, in China if need be) transplant the head of a living person onto a recently dead cadaver is threatening to sue Konami for using his likeness in MGS5. Some fans, however, believe that the entire doctor’s persona has been a marketing ploy from the MGS camp over the past several years. If the latter is true, it would truly be one of the most remarkable surreptitious marketing ploys employed by a game maker ever. I’m inclined to believe they used his crazy likeness.

Maybe the crazy doctor could cutoff Konami’s body and put Kojima’s crazy head on it. They would probably lose money, but man would they make some rad games.