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Remember when Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro were going to make Silent Hills? Remember when Kojima got blown out and that got canceled and then his company fell apart and got removed from The Phantom Pain box art? Well yesterday, a Nikkei article about Konami’s work environment was published, and the details are more than a little frightening.
According to a summary by Japanese-English game localizer Thomas James, Konami’s issues are deeper than anyone may have previously thought. To begin, Konami has sunk over 80 million dollars into the development of The Phantom Pain as of April. That’s an amount that rivals Hollywood blockbusters, and Konami must be damn confident in the game’s performance with a budget like that. However, Phantom Pain’s budget is hardly the tip of the iceberg.
The “internal culture” within Konami has been described as “poisonous,” and based on these reports, that would be an apt way to put it. According to the Nikkei article, Konami has enforced a number of draconian, authoritarian policies over its employees. For example, lunch breaks are regulated with time cards and those who go over their allotment are “outed” within the company. “Useless” employees have been assigned lower jobs like security detail and clean-up duty at the fitness club – and apparently, prominent producers and creators have had this work forced upon them. Another incident involved reassignment of employees who liked a Facebook post about one of their coworkers joining another company – again, this apparently includes personnel in upper management. More creators aside from Kojima have parted ways with the company as well, such as LovePlus creator Akari Uchida. There’s more in the Nikkei story about Konami’s business model as well, but none of that has been translated.
These reports all paint a very strange picture of a company “dying a very strange death,” in the words of Chooch’s own podcast guy Niall. It already seemed like Konami would struggle with the departure of one of its most prominent creators, and these unsettling reports of internal office politics do little to dissuade the idea that Konami is struggling. It’s unknown what effect the leaking of these details will have on Konami in the long run, but what can be said is that they are disturbing indeed.