Ever since the cancellation of P.T. and the letting go of Hideo Kojima, Konami has been a dirty word for gamers and the gaming world, as their actions have seemed to move the company toward a mobile gaming platform, and away from its famous IPs such as Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania. Well, it’s not just gamers that have seemingly gotten the shaft from Konami, as a report by Nikkei, a financial magazine from Japan, has more information on the working conditions and some of the more specific details on how it is to work within the walls of the once famous company. This comes off the heels of a report done by Super BunnyHop (whose video was hit with a copyright strike after release) regarding some of the weird behaviors that Konami is putting into place into it’s new brand and business strategy. A special thanks to Thomas James for translating the information here from the magazine.
Let’s start with Kojima and Kojima Productions. For Kojima specifically, it was allegedly indicated that he fell from grace for the company due to the delay to Metal Gear Solid V. Nikkai indicates that the team was rebranded as “Number 8 Production Department”, taking the famous name off the proud team that has created great works of the past. For their specific work areas, the computers are not connected to the internet and only have local messaging access, meaning any connections to the outside world are gone, with resources such as the Internet not available to the talented team in question.
And the employees are facing what seems to be horrible conditions. Most regular employees do not have email addresses, with the exception of the PR and Sales Departments (for obvious reasons there). Everyone else gets an address randomized and changed every few months, which are typically a few letters followed by a string of numbers. Kotaku asked a Konami employee about the practice, and it was indicated that was done to prevent headhunting of those in the company. Employees are regularly monitored with camera that aren’t there for security, but rather to monitor their movements, in some weird cross of 1984 and Minority Report. Their lunch time isn’t sacred either. While you may see the practice in the United States in punching in and out for lunch like Konami has introduced, what is more problematic is the fact that those who have lunch for too long have their names shamed throughout the company in a public list.
And don’t get on the higher ups bad side, or you may get reassigned to other jobs, such as cleaning staff at the company’s fitness clubs, or working at the pachi-slot machine factory. Yes, despite being classically trained in software, art, or anything of the like, it doesn’t matter if you are looked as expendable by those above you. It wasn’t just the little guys that were hit by this practice in the company, as bigger producers and other prominent creators had these new jobs forced on them. A famous incident regarding a Konami staffer who went from game development to working in the aforementioned factory caused the man severe depression due to the switch. And even those who were able to get out of the company ended up causing those employees who congratulated them with likes on Facebook problems, as those staff that liked the post in question apparently had their positions “reshuffled” within the company.
One of the major cited reasons for some of the shift in culture is the success of a mobile title called Dragon Collection, which was a smash hit in the Japanese market. It was a social game for phones, and had a low cost of development while a high profit return. Now note, there has been a huge boom in the mobile market in Japan overall beyond just Konami, but this specific game was cited by a specific employee within Konami. This caused a shift in the market strategy for Konami, moving them from more hardcore titles of the past and more towards social titles. It didn’t help that reports of Metal Gear Solid 5’s development costs seemed to pass 80 million dollars, which seems to help justify the move toward mobile gaming. Bigger name talent such as the creator of Love Plus and Kojima have left the company over the last several years, and morale has been indicated as an all time low for the company.
In addition, popular games of the company have also been licensed out, with the recent licensing of Hudson Soft product Momotaro Dentetsu being licensed out to Nintendo for licensing fees. But what’s more interesting is the fact that it was jettisoned due to disagreements over revenue split with the creator of the franchise, and the deal with Nintendo happened without warning. Development of games with cult followings such as Tokimeki Memori and Suikoden have been halted as well, although they might not have been in active development at the time (basically, it’s extra dead.)
Even within the industry, it looks like other companies with Japan are not liking what Konami is doing.There are accusations laid against Kagemasa on not being willing to increase the budget for console games with diminishing returns. Nikkai reached out to the chairman repeatedly for comment, but did not get any information or response from him.
It looks like the landscape of the giant in the gaming world is changing, but not necessarily for the better.
Does this change your view on Konami in the slightest, and do you think the company, despite indicating it still wants to listen to fans, is attempting to get out of the console market entirely? Do you think that this information coming to light in the Japanese culture will change anything about the working conditions there? Leave your comments below!