Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima has officially left video games publisher Konami, according to a report from The New Yorker, apparently confirming rumors earlier this year that the talismanic designer would be moving on from the Japanese company. Kojima, who most recently worked as director of Kojima Productions — the self-named studio within Konami responsible for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — reportedly stepped down from his position on October 9th. Konami, however, have denied that Kojima has left, insisting that he is merely "on vacation."
"taking a long time off from work."
According to a report from Kotaku, a spokesperson for Konami told Tokyo Sports that Kojima is still "listed as a company employee," and that he and his team "are finished developing Metal Gear Solid V and are taking a long time off from work." When asked about Kojima's farewell party, the spokesperson replied: "We’re not sure what kind of thing this was," and later insisted that "it’s common for employees to take extended periods of time off when development is finished."
It's not clear exactly what the truth of the matter is, but it's possible that Konami doesn't wish to turn Kojima's departure into an event, and is doing its best to fade out the legendary developer's presence in the company. It's reported that Kojima's contract and corresponding non-compete clause runs out in December.
It's been speculated that the lengthy and expensive development process of the most recent Metal Gear Solid games was too much for a Konami that is refocusing on cheaper, faster, and more profitable mobile games. MGS V saw critical success and made $179 million on its launch day alone, but the game cost the company an estimated $80 million to develop. Mobile games, on the other hand, have been a major source of profit for the Japanese firm, with titles such as Dragon Collection and Sengoku Collection helping it increase net profits by almost 80 percent between 2011 and 2012 without requiring tortuous development periods.
Konami's profits increased 80 percent between 2011 and 2012 thanks to mobile games
Konami has been unclear on its future plans, first indicating that it would continue to make MGS-style triple-A console games after the latest Metal Gear, before a report indicated in September that it was giving up on all development of its console titles apart from yearly sports series Pro Evolution Soccer. A Konami community manager later argued that the report was incorrect and that comments have been taken out of context, but the departure of Julien Merceron — the director in charge of MGS V's Fox Engine technology — in September backed up the rumor that Konami would be refocusing its resources away from console games. The departure of Kojima, one of the most visible and valuable figures in in the games industry, also supports that theory.
Updated, 20th October, 5:16AM ET: Updated to include statements from Konami denying that Kojima has left the company.