Rest forever here in our hearts.
Well, it’s finally happened. After months of speculation, Konami’s bloated corpse has finally breathed its last breath, and succumbed to the early stages of rigor mortis by announcing that it’s going to leave the console market behind and focus on mobile games from now on.
It’s hardly surprising. Konami’s been going through a weird personality shift over the last few years. It messed up the Silent Hill series and tried to fix the problem by bringing out a terrible Vita-only multiplayer game set in the fog-filled town. With hindsight, this may have been the first sign of their intention to go mobile. An unexplained split with Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima followed, as did the cancellation of Silent Hills, and even former company man Koji Igarashi felt the need to break away and create his own independent take on Castlevania with his new Kickstarter-funded game Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Had Konami turned its back on traditional gaming as we know it?
Last week, our fears were confirmed. Konami’s president Hideki Hayakawa announced that mobile games would be the company’s main platform from now on.
“Mobile is where the future of gaming lies”, Hayakawa boldly declared. “With multiplatform games, there’s really no point in dividing the market into categories anymore. Mobiles will take on the new role of linking the general public to the gaming world. Following the pay-as-you-play model of games like Power Pro and Winning Eleven with additional content, our games must move from selling ‘items’ to selling things ‘features’. We saw that even people who buy physical games are motivated to buy extra content [DLC]. The success of Power Pro especially has motivated us to actively push more of our popular series onto mobile than ever before.”
Long time fans who’ve grown up with the studio’s console franchises were understandably upset. Forums across the world lit up with gamers bidding goodbye to Konami with all the reverence of those attending a close friend’s funeral. It’s hard to blame them. Watching Konami slowly disappear up its own backside over the last few years has been akin to helplessly watching an old friend’s descent into insanity.
The most alarming aspect of Hayakawa’s massively misguided speech is the idea of selling “features” in their mobile games.
Fans who’ve grown up with the studio’s franchises feel that Konami has turned their backs on them. It’s clear that many now see this as the end of better times with the company and the culmination of a decline in the quality of the studio’s games that began when Team Silent was disbanded and Silent Hill was handed over to a new team of developers who, let’s be honest, thought it wise to replace psychological horror with giant sewer spiders sporting blades for limbs. Driving off Kojima has given them a bad name within the industry, too, and guarantees that big name creative talent will think twice about working with them in the future should Konami decide they’ve made a mistake and try to return to console gaming.
The very make up of the company will have to change because mobile games don’t require massive staff teams to make, so expect to hear news of mass lay-offs at Konami any day now. Recovering those staff will be incredibly difficult if the company does decide to make a U-turn – returning to the ex who burned you rarely ends well, after all. And then there’s the way they’ve handled the P.T. fiasco, not only taking it off the PlayStation Store but trying to conclusively lock it down so that even gamer’s who’ve already added it to their library can’t access it with all the aggressive immaturity of a toddler throwing a tantrum because his sweets have been taken away. Yet perhaps the most alarming aspect of Hayakawa’s massively misguided speech is the idea of selling “features” in their mobile games rather than “items”, which some will likely guess means they want to monetise future releases by butchering them into incomplete games to sell bit by bit.
None of these actions show any sign of a company that cares the slightest about its fans. Yes, Konami is a business and like all businesses they have to make money. But rather than doing so by rewarding their fans with quality experiences, Konami has instead decided to throw itself headlong into a market that’s already saturated to bursting point and which they have little experience of developing or marketing for.
Konami? Konami?! Konamiiiii!
It’s hard to look at the modern Konami and see the same company that reached such dizzying heights in the 1980’s to mid 2000’s. By chasing an easy buck they’re essentially trumping in the face of the very people who helped put them there, and what’s truly ironic about it all is that this may not be a good business decision, either. The mobile market exists in a bubble that’s hard to get into and even harder to make big money from. Just look at the thousands of apps, half of them knock-offs of each other, that exist in the mobile market. Few of them are of a high quality and many mobile gamers are fine with that because they’re used to not having to pay for those apps, and if they do, it’s rarely more than the price of a pint. If you’re going to be tuning in and out of it while waiting for the bus or sitting on the toilet, quality isn’t so essential. Either Konami haven’t fully realised that yet or they’re completely aware of it and are relying on that lack of reliance on quality to make them an easy dollar.
However you look at it, this marks a major turning point for Konami and regardless of whether or not their plans lands them flat on their asses or propells them to financial nirvana, the Konami we grew up with, the Konami we loved and respected, is gone for good.