These days, Konami is best-known for two things: publishing the Metal Gear series and acting completely insane.
The company was once the envy of the gaming world. It published such venerated franchises as Metal Gear and Silent Hill, sitting back as its profit margins just kept growing. It was a cozy arrangement for both the firm and its customers. Highly regarded designers like Hideo Kojima gave decades of their lives to Konami, and it gave right back.
In the early 2010’s, though, Konami’s behavior changed. The company made a series of highly publicized gaffes around its own games. In 2012, it stayed mum on the release date for hack’n’slash title Blades of Time until one week before the fact. Apparently the publisher either forgot that the game was releasing or didn’t care to give it a chance to build some hype.
In the same year, Konami also elected to release three Silent Hill games in a single month. Yep, that actually happened; the publisher released Silent Hill: Downpour, Silent Hill: HD Collection and Silent Hill: Book of Memories all within just a few weeks of each other.
The event was called “The Month of Madness” and the irony of that name was apparently lost on Konami. Even more embarrassing, the HD Collection did not run well. 2012 may not have been the year the world ended, but it was the year that this company lost its collective mind.
Years went by, and Konami seemed content to continue its pattern of bizarre behavior. New releases went under-promoted, journalists who gave negative reviews were blacklisted, and press conferences held in the United States were hosted by speakers who couldn’t speak English. The company’s mistakes made it one of gaming journalism’s favorite punching bags, as YouTube and press pundits rightly ridiculed it for its outlandish behavior.
For a moment, it looked like 2015 was the year that Konami had regained its sanity. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain had just been released to rave reviews, and the company seemed poised to seize upon Metal Gear’s inertia with the announcement of Silent Hills. The now-legendary Silent Hills P.T. was the toast of the gaming world, and everyone was looking forward to what looked like a great horror game.
But it was not to be. For reasons that remain murky two years later, Konami decided to cancel Silent Hills and terminate its relationship with Hideo Kojima, its most decorated (and profitable) game designer. The company stubbornly stayed quiet on why Silent Hills had been axed, even as that announcement was met with an overwhelmingly negative outcry.
Konami even scrubbed most any mention of Hideo Kojima’s tenure at the company from its games and marketing material to confirm what the world already knew: the once-great Konami had devolved into a deranged, butthurt child. Maybe that’s who Konami tapped to run things. It would explain a lot.
Two years later, the future of Konami looks uncertain. The company announces new focuses at a rapid pace, stating intentions to focus on gambling machines, then mobile gaming, then console gaming in worryingly rapid succession.
Konami’s reputation in the industry has been tarnished both by its weird behavior and damning reports of mistreatment toward current and former employees. Exposes by magazines like The Nikkei allege that the company has grueling working conditions and even goes out of its way to burn ex-employees, making it harder for them to find a new job.
The weirdest thing about all of this behavior is that, though there are many theories, no one really knows why Konami lost its way. Konami is to video gaming what Aerys Targaryen is to Game of Thrones: a king who sat on the throne for a long time only to suddenly exhibit madness.
Meanwhile, Sony was only too happy to snap up Kojima, and his upcoming video game Death Stranding looks quite interesting. Everyone has moved on, and Konami has elected to throw the pieces at the wall instead of collect them.
That’s Konami in a nutshell. The company recently announced its intention to return to developing right and proper video games, but who on earth knows if those will be any good. There’s plenty of glory to explore in Konami’s back catalog, but as for the company’s future, well… that remains as unpredictable as its behavior.