Konami is one of the world’s most well-known games publishers and has been behind popular series such as Pro Evolution Soccer and Metal Gear Solid. However, the company’s reputation has taken a hit recently after its public fallout with Metal Gear director Hideo Kojima.
The controversy began earlier this year when Kojima’s name was removed from the box art for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, though Konami stated that Kojima would complete his work on the game and that the Metal Gear series would live on without him. However, the weekly Kojima Station broadcast was soon taken offline and fans were in uproar when Silent Hills was cancelled too. With Konami having tweets deleted and YouTube videos taken down, it seemed that the publisher was keen to keep the rumors under wraps and to stop any more information from leaking out.
Konami has since apologized for the events of the past few months, as well as clarifying their stance on mobile gaming (some feared that the publisher would be ditching consoles), but their reputation has now taken a further hit thanks to a new report from Nikkei. According to the Japanese publication, Konami’s work environment is terrible and has been worsening for years.
In the report, Nikkei states that in 2010, Konami saw the success of Dragon Collection (a mobile game that was hugely successful despite its small development budget) and began to focus more on mobile gaming as a result. Given that some game developers have expressed concern about the state of Japan’s console industry, that makes a lot of sense. But unfortunately, as Metal Gear Solid 5 has an $80 million budget and has cost the publisher extra due to its delay, tensions rose between Konami and Kojima.
That new strategy, Nikkei alleges, has also brought with it some horrific work practices. Kojima Productions, for example, is known as ‘Number 8 Production Department’ and the studios’ computers are not connected to the Internet, with employees only being able to send internal messages. It should be noted that Kojima Productions was then (reportedly) forced to disband.
Additionally, Nikkei states that employees have time cards for their lunch breaks and those who stay out too long are named and shamed through the company. Konami’s offices also have cameras in the corridors to monitor employee movements and most employees do not have permanent email addresses, either. Instead, their email addresses are randomized and changed every few months, and these emails are also the only way that Konami employees can communicate outside of the company. Kotaku reports that emails are randomized to prevent headhunting, but in practice, it may also make it difficult for whistle-blowers.
In another troubling story, Nikkei also revealed how Konami chooses to punish game developers who aren’t seen as ‘useful’. The report claims that anyone – from junior employees to producers on well-known games – may be reassigned as security guards, fitness club cleaners, or workers at their pachi-slot machine factory. One former Konami employee was reassigned to the pachi-slot factory, which caused him to get severe depression. After he left the company he posted about his new job on Facebook and when current Konami employees ‘liked’ his post were reassigned too.
No doubt the report paints a harsh picture of Konami’s work environment, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. Although several have come forward to reveal Konami’s poor business practices, they’ve done so without much in the way of anecdotal evidence. Still, it’s not hard to imagine a company like Konami, who has become focused on the bottom line in recent years, putting some strict rules and regulations in place.