The last few weeks have been disastrous for Konami – they’ve lost Hideo Kojima (one of their greatest and best known game directors) in a high-profile split which has seen the publisher raked over the coals by gamers all over the internet, and Silent Hills has been cancelled despite being one of the publisher’s most-anticipated releases. One of these events taken by itself would be bad for the company, but for both to have occurred within weeks of each other could be devastating.
You know what they say: when it rains, it pours.
These recent events shouldn’t be all that surprising. One quick look at Konami’s recent activity shows that it may not be putting as much stake in console gaming as it once did. In fact, the publisher appears to be aiming more towards the mobile market – a shift in strategy also adopted by SEGA, who recently laid off vast swathes of its console development teams and announced its intent to re-focus on the burgeoning phone and tablet sectors.
It’s not fully clear why Kojima parted ways with Konami, but they have had a strained relationship for some time. Kojima even stated himself that he’d be leaving after Metal Gear Solid V was finished. Sadly for us horror gamers, this quarrel rolled over onto Silent Hills, leading to its death at the hand of… business? Not really a fitting end to such an exciting upcoming horror game. I’d have at least expected a bunch of evil spirits, some sort of curse and maybe the odd smattering of blood and guts (oh, and don’t forget creepy undead nurses either).
But why was the Silent Hills project even allowed to die? This was a game that had fans of the franchise rolling over themselves with excitement, praying for the release to finally come. It could have been the game that allowed Konami to explode onto next-gen consoles, considering they’ve only released one full game on them so far. Yes, you heard me right. Konami, considered a staple of Japanese gaming, has only released one full game for next gen consoles, Pro Evolution Soccer 2015.
They’ve also released Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, but it acts more as a prologue for the upcoming Phantom Pain and so can’t be considered a full release. No matter what way you look at it, this is a little strange – especially when you consider that both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 were released in November 2013.
Konami claims that they’re still going to be working on new Metal Gear and Silent Hill titles, which I don’t doubt to be true. After all, the franchise earns them so much money that the Publisher lists it as a separate revenue stream on their fiscal reports to shareholders in the company. However, there’s been no definite news on either of these franchises. Konami has only released some fairly vague statements, claiming that they’re still working on them. If Konami is moving away from console gaming, it will be an incredibly slow process. It seems highly unlikely that they’d ever abandon console gaming completely; but it may go on more of a back-burner in favor of other aspects of their business.
Over the past few years, Konami’s presence in console gaming has been slowly dwindling – in the early 90s they were an absolute powerhouse in the gaming industry. Between 1997 and 1999 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill were released, three absolute classics of gaming (on an unrelated note, I like to pretend I’m Alucard sometimes). They also had plenty of new releases out every year. When compared to this, the last few years of Konami releases are notably sparse. Putting aside the lack of releases on next-gen consoles, there hasn’t been very much activity on other consoles either.
From 2012, Konami has only released about 15 titles for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Many of these, like Neverdead and Blades of Time, went under the radar and weren’t terribly well received.
Two of these releases were reliving past glories in the form of HD remakes – Zone of the Enders HD Collection and Silent Hill HD Collection. The other Silent Hill release, Silent Hill: Downpour, didn’t do very well and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 also received in mixed reviews. The only staple Konami franchise that actually did well was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. In light of facts like these, it’s not hard to see that there’s a chance Konami has decided to place less importance on console gaming.
A quick glance at Konami’s planned releases also supports this theory. With the cancellation of Silent Hills, the only console release Konami has in the works which we know of is Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain. For such a huge gaming company, this is odd. It’s also important to note that the company’s Digital Entertainment section (which includes console gaming) has seen its percentage of revenue decreasing since 2010. According to gamesindustry.biz, Digital Entertainment dropped below 50% of the company’s total revenue in 2014. As recently as 2009, the total revenue for Digital Entertainment accounted for 60% of the company’s revenue, so it’s been steadily in decline.
This statistic looks even worse for console gaming when you realise that mobile and social games (also part of Digital Entertainment) have been steadily increasing. So Konami’s console and arcade gaming sections have been bleeding money since 2010. Konami has also started focusing much more on their arcade machines and their series of gyms, fitness clubs and sports venues. This makes it appear more likely that Konami’s focus as a company may have shifted.
I’m not claiming to have any special insight into the workings of Konami. Perhaps they have something planned for console gaming that they’ve kept under wraps. I certainly hope this is the case as I’ve been looking forward to a new (and good) Silent Hill title for a long, long time.
However, based on the information we have, it certainly seems like Konami will have to do something big to make a dent in the console gaming market again.
That is, if they want to.