Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Konami -- Crash And Burn

One of the most important lessons anyone in a creative field can learn is, You should never treat your audience with complete and utter contempt.  Some people get away with it, like some punk rock acts, or the Kardashians, or everyone has their own favorite examples.  But for the most part, people learn that it chases their reliable supporters away, and they really weren't all that special to begin with.

Like I said, there are people who can get away with it.  But the field where you are least likely to survive is the video game field.  Atari, John Romero, Derek Smart, and many many others have seen their worlds collapse into dust.  And more are coming.  Sega has moved away from its unique identity (plus the fact that no one there seems to know how to make a decent Sonic game to save their lives) and is now abandoning console gaming to focus on mobile and PC.  Capcom is almost broke, and their gamble to focus on DLC (and some really stupid DLC, I might add -- I had no interest in giving my SFIV characters "Snooki hair" or playing as the US box art version of the first Mega Man) has turned out to be a disaster, pushing them closer to the drain they were circling around.  And these things all stem from thinking fans are fans of the companies themselves instead of their creations.

Hello, Konami.  Are you resting comfortably?

In the past couple of months, Konami has really really fucked up.  Konami made missteps before.  For example, cancelling Kumite all those years ago, which was supposed to be a one-on-one fighter that took physical damage (up to and including broken bones and torn ligaments and tendons) into account.  Suing ITG over In The Groove saying that it violated their copyrights when they hadn't released a new DDR game in three years.  Refusing to release Guitar Freaks in the US for years, then suing Red Octane for infringment when Guitar Hero redefined gaming.  But there was more than enough in their plus column to make people look past that.  They created some of the legends of gaming, and in fact were the only Nintendo licensee in the 8-bit days to be allowed to publish more than Nintendo's allotment of games for the system (the Ultra Games line-up).  Konami ran off the creative staff behind the original Contra, making them pull up stakes after Contra III and form Treasure (the criminally underrated Gunstar Heroes).  Eventually, they hired Treasure to make Contra -- Shattered Soldier.  Last year, the creator of Castlevania told Konami to go fuck themselves and left, and there hasn't been any preproduction on Castlevania since.  And the biggest name, their bread and butter, in the current era were two franchises, Silent Hill and Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid.

Things got a bit confusing when Konami refused to let Team Silent continue to work on Silent Hill, but things were looking good with their announcement of Silent Hills.  This was a project that had every video game nut wetting themselves in anticipation.  Team Silent was out, but Kojima was in.  And he would be working with Guillermo del Toro with no limitations, no guidelines, just make the scariest horror game ever.  They signed Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead to star.  To kick things off, Konami released The P.T., which stood for "Playable Trailer" to give people a taste of things to come.  And the fans went wild.

But things got shaky last year.  Konami was working hard on Metal Gear Solid:  The Phantom Pain.  To help keep interest up, they released Ground Zeroes.  However, this backfired.  Ground Zeroes was basically a demo that could have been recapped in a cut scene at the start of Phantom Pain, and charged $30 dollars for something that could be completed in a little over an hour if you ignored the side quests (and the side quests just reused things from the main game anyway, so it's not like there was a lot of new ground there).  They were orginally going to charge more before fan outrage made them lower the price, and everyone still feels like they got ripped off.  The game was $20 digitally, but most people simply got the game from RedBox and played it through to unlock the things that would factor in to Phantom Pain rather than shelling out that much for it.  Konami made a huge huge mistake.

Now, the company could have recovered, if they had the resources.  Literally, the only games Konami had scheduled for release in 2015 were Silent Hills and Phantom Pain.  Do them right, and the fans will love you.  But then, Kojima got bit by the same bug that infected Treasure and the others.  There was a public kerfuffle, and in short order, Kojima's profile and prominent placement on the Konami site was gone.  No one would say anything, but it's pretty obvious that he's only there to finish Phantom Pain and then he's gone.

What's that?  What about Silent Hills?  ...yeah...about that....Konami started backpedaling on that, too.  Reedus and del Toro both found out and talked casually in interviews about the project being scrapped.  It took Konami a couple of days to make the official announcement.  That means there is only one Konami game coming out this year, Phantom Pain.  And once it's out, Konami's version of Shigeru Miyamoto is out the door.

Konami delisted themselves from the New York Stock Exchange last week.  To be fair, this isn't really that bad.  Something like 99% of their stock is in the Japanese market, and a smidgen is in Europe.  The American portion was even less than Europe's, so I can't blame them for wanting to move on.  But the real PR disaster came this week.

With the cancellation of Silent Hills, suddenly, all fans had was the PT demo.  Konami pulled it from the digital stores.  So people started selling their PS4's and XB1's with the PT demo installed on eBay, with some units pulling in almost $2K.  Then, suddenly, every game unit with the PT demo on it got delisted.  eBay said selling systems with software preinstalled violated the TOS (which is technically true, but with all the used computers, phones, and so on being sold there, you know that's not rigidly enforced), refunded the listing costs, and said move along, nothing to see here.

Why would eBay suddenly enforce this rule?  Well, let's see, who out there is trying to George Orwell Silent Hills from existence, going so far as to pretend it never existed, scrubbing all artwork and press releases they can?  Konami.

Konami recently gave their earnings report, and frankly, their pachinko business is not only thriving, it's growing.  Meanwhile, the video game field has mutated.  You either make AAA titles with budgets higher than the GDP of a third world country (EA, Ubisoft) or you're an indie with a shoestring budget making cheap derivative games and unable to quit your day job.  And Konami has run off so many people...Konami is done.  After this year, I don't think Konami will even exist as a publisher.  The people behind Gradius and Percussion Master and the original good Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games and Suikoden and....

...on the trash pile of video game history.  Just like Sega.  Because they forgot video games are a collaborative process.

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