How Can Konami Rebuild Their Reputation?


In what is now a notorious debacle of epic proportions, last year Konami became public enemy number one after Kojima’s dismissal from the publisher caught the world’s attention amid the build-up to MGS V’s launch. The removal of Kojima productions logo, the rumors of his separation from the team, and the misinformation about his “extended vacation”; it was a PR cover-up that wasn’t fooling anyone.

Enraged gamers were furious that their beloved franchise was being tampered with and the brilliant mind behind it was being muzzled by bureaucracy. The more the situation went on, the more Kojima was being painted as a hero of the people, a creative rockstar shackled by Konami, an evil corporate entity that was determined to stifle his run for freedom.

After last year’s stories of poor working conditions for staff, unfair treatment, and mass layoffs; Konami needed a PR win. But fast forward 18 months and the announcement of Metal Gear Survive has apparently all but vindicated the torrent of abuse hurled at Konami. For most gamers, the publisher now represents the epitome of an unabashed corporation; hell-bent on the pursuit of profit without any respect for the integrity of beloved IPs. If Survive was Konami’s way of impressing upon us their intention to continue AAA game development, it was a fail of epic proportions.

Clearly, the Metal Gear franchise is worth too much for Konami to abandon, and the publisher isn’t willing to put the IP to rest out of respect for Kojima. Continuing to make money off the franchise is the imperative, but is there really a way for Konami to achieve that goal without upsetting fans? Arguably, there was no feasible way in which Konami could continue the Metal Gear name without copping a barrage of flak from the gaming community, a community still out for blood after last year’s incidents.

Not that we should be making any excuses for Survive. The zombie spinoff is undoubtedly a shameless cash in on a popular IP. Still, though, you can see the temptation from the publisher’s point of view, as cashing in on the MGS brand is as easy including the name in the title; you’re always going to find some sort of audience that consumes related content. And given MGS V’s long time in production, you can safely assume Kojima clearly wasn’t cheap to keep around. In fact, we know almost certainly that concerns over the cost to sale ratio of the game was a sticking point for Konami. The publisher was, therefore, always likely to try to squeeze some extra revenue out of MGS V.

But even looking at it with an open mind, Survive is hard to swallow. Konami must have predicted a storm of disapproval was inbound, and in many ways, it seems mad that someone on the development team could have championed rehashing MGS V assets to make a multiplayer zombie shooter; it’s only going to send their reputation one way.

However, could Konami have avoided this pitfall in the first place with a different approach? Given their now dire reputation for evil corporatism and mistreatment of employees, Konami surely faces an uphill battle whatever direction they try to take the MGS franchise.

Push a new narrative-driven entry to the MGS series and they disrespect Kojima’s legacy; create a spinoff title like Survive and they are then dirtying the franchise through money grubbing. So, it’s a case of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Looking at it objectively, then, perhaps Konami felt Survive was the least painful way of milking MGS V a little longer.