As many of us may be aware, Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame) and Konami (of... well, Konami fame) appear to be fast approaching the end of their near three decade love affair and no-one really has the foggiest idea why. Both sides of this cryptic split seem to be keeping themselves to themselves and so far have let nothing too incriminating slip in to the public domain. For those unaware with the current Kojima/Konami situation, here are some short facts to go on: Hideo Kojima is leaving Konami when his contract ends, following the release of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain later this year. This means that MGS:5 will be the last Metal Gear with Kojima pulling those creative strings. Lastly, Kojima still retains presence in the industry as part of the “Kojima Productions“ studio but without Silent Hills, no-one quite knows what's happening on that end. There, now you're pretty much up to speed with this entire situation.
So, in recent weeks many sources have been speculating that the branding rights of Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is the stick poking at the embers of this dispute. More specifically the fact that Konami's new management system would prevent MGS:5 being branded as “a Hideo Kojima game“ and as a result would break the tradition inherent to the franchise. It's been known for many years that this “filmic“ approach to branding games has been very important to Kojima since day one. This change of branding idea could, of course, be pure speculation and doesn't mean that there's bad blood between the two powerhouses of the industry. It's still entirely possible that the two parties agreed that it was time to part ways. After all, Kojima has his own studio and Konami could probably handle things just fine without the support of Kojima's iconic writing style. That said, I highly doubt that Kojima took having his greatest success forcefully removed from his grasp laying down. Yes, the “branding dispute“ theory certainly looks like the most credible. Either way, the PR response to the whole issue has been a rough looking, but otherwise tame talk of departure following the expiration of a contract. At the very least, I would expect a heavily passive aggressive comment in an interview from Kojima if Konami were interfering with his brainchild, but Kojima seems to have been avoiding the media a lot recently. Read in to that as far as you like, I'll stay here until you get back. In all honesty, it's likely that the two parties have agreed to wait until after MGS:5 drops before allowing this situation to hog all of MGS:5's time in the spotlight. If I were trying to shift the last Metal Gear game with Kojima as the lead writer, I'd want the game to have so many spotlights on it that the power draw would plunge the south of England back in to the dark ages. No, there's going to be a time for this dispute to become public and it is certainly not now. Not with one of the year's most anticipated games sharing the stage.
Unfortunately, we can clearly see the smoke and mirrors and that just means we know something is being hidden. These companies are strongly tied to each other and whichever way you cut it, a professional departure could spell dark days for both parties. Oddly though, I feel that Konami would be the ones getting burned badly, with Kojima Productions getting off with having to run their hands under cold water for a couple of minutes. I only say this because this is Hideo Kojima we're talking about. If E3 rolls around and I see nothing but a black screen with “A Hideo Kojima game“ plastered across it then I can guarantee you I'll be making the kind of squeals of excitement that you don't tell anyone about and hope no-one hears you make. I wouldn't need anything more than those four words to get me excited about whatever comes next. To at least go in to whatever follows with a positive and excited mindset. In contrast to this, if Konami releases a sixth Metal Gear game (and we know they will), I'm going to be approaching it with an air of caution. It'll be the kind of caution with which one approaches a new hairdresser when the one you've been going to for the last 30 years stops working at the barber's shop. The old guy was great and more importantly, he knew what you wanted. In contrast, the guy who replaced him uses exclusively number two clippers but feels he needs to charge you just as much. I think I could be forgiven for checking out the other barber's shops in the area before I settle on the new guy. In fact, I hear the old hairdresser still cuts hair in his own place across town and I'm far more inclined go and check that out.