Between his work and the way it’s promoted, there’s no doubt that Hideo Kojima is a mysterious figure in the games industry. He’s responsible for some of the most mind-bending plots in video games — but the behind-the-scenes narrative that’s playing out ahead of the release of Metal Gear Solid V might be his most perplexing yet.
The Phantom Pain has been steeped in controversy even before it was officially announced. Initially promoted as the debut title from Swedish developers Moby Dick Studio, events including the appearance of the heavily bandaged Joakim Mogren and the departure of Snake voice actor David Hayter have taken fans on a rollercoaster ride.
In recent weeks, things took an unexpected turn when Kojima and Konami had a behind-the-scenes disagreement, leading to the director’s name being removed from promotional materials pertaining to the new Metal Gear Solid. Parties involved with development claimed he was ‘fired’ — something Konami quickly denied.
Now, Kojima has no-showed the Famitsu Awards, an annual ceremony held by Japan’s largest weekly video game magazine. Having attended the show regularly in previous years, the Metal Gear creator was rather conspicuous by his absence.
In fact, no one from Konami was present, even though Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and innovative game demo P.T. — another Kojima project — received awards. Kotaku reports that the Japanese video game press are up in arms about the studio’s non-attendance, and it certainly raises more questions about the studio’s conflict with Kojima.
Is the relationship between the studio and one of its key creative forces really so frosty that neither could attend an event that honors the fruits of their relationship? Or are we seeing Kojima’s most audacious blending of reality and non-reality play out before our very eyes?
Even as all this goes on, The Phantom Pain is still being promoted with a bizarre publicity stunt surrounding the world’s first head transplant. The doctor attempting the procedure is planning legal action against Konami thanks to his likeness to a character being used in MGS V — but, as ever, the line between fiction and reality is difficult to gauge.
The Phantom Pain will certainly be hard-pushed to feature as many twists and turns in its plot as have unfolded over the course of development. Fans will no doubt be hoping that much of this controversy is done for the sake of PR, and won’t negatively affect the overall quality of the finished product.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is set to release on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on September 1, 2015. A PC release will follow two weeks later.