MGS V:The Phantom Pain, As Big Boss arrives, the boss leaves

You’ve surely heard the news by now? Metal Gear creator and director of MGSV: The Phantom Pain, Hideo Kojima, is no longer at Konami. Well, he sort of is, but not really. Additionally, the studio that Kojima heads up, Kojima Productions, is being shuttered. Well, Konami hasn’t actually said that, but it hasn’t said that it’s not being closed either. In fact, Konami hasn’t said much at all to clarify all the rumours swirling around Kojima, his studio, and Konami itself, so let’s rewind a bit and try to unravel what’s going on with Kojima and Metal Gear.

All this started when fans started to notice some curious changes. References to Kojima Productions and Hideo Kojima were being removed from MGS V’s website and the box art for the game; a tweet from the Kojima Productions Twitter account was sent out pointing to a new official Twitter account for MGS; a document on Konami’s website was discovered that showed Kojima would no longer be a director at the company. Naturally, this sparked speculation about whether Kojima had decided to leave Konami, or perhaps was being pushed out, with rumours that a power struggle between the publisher and Kojima Productions has led it to decide to make some drastic changes.
Konami and Kojima have responded to the rumours in some fashion, but their statements actually reveal very little. “The latest title in Metal Gear series, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will be released as planned,” Konami said. “Hideo Kojima will remain involved throughout.” Okay, so Kojima will be ‘involved’, but what exactly does that mean?

If we read between the lines here then we can make some pretty confident judgements about what’s going on. Konami’s refusal to outright state that Kojima is not leaving the company means that he is, barring a dramatic reversal, out the door. Given the fact that he is still involved in developing MGSV, that means he will probably cut all ties with Konami officially some time after the game’s release. With Kojima seemingly on his way out, that also means an end to Kojima Productions, at least in its current form Konami may simply rebrand and reorganise the studio rather than laying its staff off.

What does this all mean for the future of Metal Gear ? Well, in the short term, we expect very little to change. With Kojima still leading The Phantom Pain’s development, it’s hard to imagine that the internal turmoil evidently taking place at Konami will have too much of an impact on the game. It may be the case that Konami is unhappy with the level of influence Kojima has and it may well be taking steps to address that, but the idea that Kojima would let them interfere with The Phantom Pain in any significant way because of that seems incredibly unlikely (in any case, that would be inadvisable and impractical given that the game is in the late stages of development). Consequently, we’re hopeful that The Phantom Pain will still end up being the incredible game we’ve been anticipating when it hits PS4 in September.

Once The Phantom Pain is done, things get far more interesting. Kojima himself has expressed a desire to move on from Metal Gear numerous times and, while he’s reneged on promises that he would do so in the past, it now seems that is inevitable. We’re excited about the prospect of Kojima moving on to do something new outside of Metal Gear, whether that be at another company or as the head of his own studio.

That doesn’t mean Metal Gear is dead, with Konami saying that it “will continue to develop and distribute top-quality content in the Metal Gear series following Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.” Indeed, the company has pointed people to its job page as it looks for new people to continue work on Metal Gear (sans mention of Kojima Productions, of course). If that does mean the next Metal Gear will not involve Kojima, Konami is taking a huge risk. The Metal Gear series is the only true giant that the publisher has left and, with Kojima commanding a loyal fan base, the next entry in the series will get short shrift if it’s not up to the high standard that’s expected. Given how intertwined Metal Gear has been with Kojima’s idiosyncratic approach to game design, we’re not sure it’s even possible for a new Metal Gear to please fans. We wait in anticipation to see what happens in the aftermath of MGS V’s release.

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