The well-publicized split between Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain creator Hideo Kojima and Konami has exposed other problems within the games publisher. A Nikkei report released Monday reveals an oppressive work environment within the company while the Metal Gear budget and delays with the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC game have run to over $80 million.
An English translation of the Nikkei article is currently not available. Twitter users Thomas James and Dr. Serkan Toto, CEO of a Tokyo-based game industry consultancy, helpfully provided translations and even they are surprised by some of the content despite both being familiar with the Japanese game industry culture.
— Dr. Serkan Toto (@serkantoto) August 3, 2015
Konami employees are assigned a randomized email address that changes every couple of months to prevent them from contacting others outside of Konami. Only employees in public facing roles such as sales and marketing are allowed to have a permanent email address.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg though as employees lunch breaks are monitored by time cards and cameras. Those who exceed the allowed time are outed within the company. Even more shocking, employees that are “deemed useless” are reassigned to menial jobs within Konami such as working the assembly line at a pachi-slot machine factory, working as security guards, or serving as a janitor for the company fitness clubs.
This punishment was meted out to both junior staff and senior producers. As IGN noted, this accusation is backed up by a 2013 Asahi News article of a former Konami employee forced to work the assembly line and developing severe depression.
Jesus, Konami’s internal culture sounds poisonous. For one, email with outsiders is done with a randomized email address changed regularly.
— Thomas James (@iiotenki) August 3, 2015
Employee’s social network usage is monitored as well. One employee announced on Facebook that he was leaving for another company. Other Konami employees that “Liked” the status were then reassigned to different positions within the company.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t this environment that caused the split between Kojima and Konami. Instead, it reportedly is the overall budget for Metal Gear Solid V combined with delays for the title. The development budget for the game reached $80 million as of April this year, according to Nikkei’s source. The overall budget is likely to be higher when you factor in the final four months of work plus marketing.
That price tag is not wildly out of sorts for a big AAA console title, but it significantly exceeds what Konami has spent on a single game before. This comes at a time when the publisher has seen large profit margins from cheaply developed mobile titles and its gambling machine business over the past five years. The further delay of Metal Gear Solid V to meet Kojima’s exacting vision further exacerbated the rift between the developer and the publisher; leading to his planned exit from the company following the game’s release in September.
Kojima is not the only major name developer to leave Konami, however. Love Plus producer Akari Uchida left in March. Meanwhile, work on other traditional console titles such as Suikoden has also reportedly been halted.
[Images via Metal Gear Solid]