Opinion: Konami rumors tarnish childhood memories0 Comments
The world finally knows what Konami was thinking. With the announcement that the storied Japanese publisher is leaving AAA console game development – with the exception of Pro Evolution Soccer – every one of their questionable actions from the last couple of years makes total sense. Cancelling Silent Hills? The departure of Kojima? Both of these controversies were clear signs of Konami’s new direction, but without solid confirmation the only thing the rest of the world could do was scratch their heads and wonder what the heck was going on in those executive boardrooms.
The reaction around the Internet is exactly what I expected, ranging from anger at Konami for stringing us along for so long to a pang of sadness that the name Konami will no longer be associated with the video game world it was built on. I find myself heading toward the latter, as I’m now realizing just how far back the name Konami and I go.
Castlevania, Contra and Metal Gear are certainly going to be the first franchises that most think of when they reflect on Konami’s tenure, but I go right back to some of the core games of my childhood. On the original Nintendo Entertainment System alone, we have three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, Blades of Steel, an excellent port of the arcade classic Track and Field, and my father’s all-time favorite video game, Silent Service. The Super Nintendo brings TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, Axelay, the underrated Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose, and Sparkster. I could keep going with the obvious franchises like Metal Gear Solid or with the time my younger sister and I had people stopping to watch us play Dance Dance Revolution on a Jersey Shore boardwalk, but I'd be here all day. These games made up a large chunk of my youth in games, particularly in my single-digit years, and they’re experiences that I will always hold dear.
In retrospect, the writing on the wall was obvious, as Konami hasn’t had much commercial success in video games recently outside of games with the words Metal and Gear in the titles. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was not the Kojima-infused resurrection of the franchise the world had hoped for, Silent Hill festered in mediocrity until the one shining hope the franchise had was canned, and the one franchise they are sticking with – Pro Evolution Soccer– can’t seem to get out of FIFA’s shadow. With a recent past like that, I’d hate to see what the future forecasts looked like.
I suppose I can’t blame Konami for checking out of the business, but I just wish I had known sooner than today, especially if they knew that this was the plan in advance. Could you imagine how much more clout Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain might have carried if we knew it would be the last non-sports, console-based video game published by the company for the foreseeable future? Not that MGSV was lacking in hype, but an attribute like that could have pushed the game off the charts. If Konami had made this decision a while ago, I would have liked to have known about it a while ago, as well.
While Konami won’t be making games for a while, what becomes of the franchises they’ve created? This isn’t like the dissolution of THQ where the company’s IPs were sold to the highest bidder; Konami is continuing business as usual, just with a different focus. Is Solid Snake now doomed to a future of pachinko slot appearances? Are we now going to have to purchase the chicken health power-up in Castlevania for 99 cents instead of finding it hidden in castle crevices? I shudder to think of a day where I see Raiden staring at me from the side of a Metal Gear Rising Revengeance slot machine in my local casino, and that’s the only place I will be able to see him in something new.
The only silver lining here is that all of the reports are saying Konami is out “for the foreseeable future.” While “foreseeable future” is certainly foreboding , it does not mean “forever.” Konami could find a way to make bank in the mobile markets and come back to AAA console development with guns blazing. We may not have silently crept into our last enemy base or whipped our last ghastly ghoul, but it still feels like the end of a era for the video game industry.
Godspeed Konami, and I hope I get to play some new console games from your magnificent library soon enough. In the meantime I’ll be over here, slapping Turtles in Time into my Super NES and remembering the good times of my youth that were marked with this logo screen. Sigh.