No Country for Old Devs
Kalvin Martinez / Jun 4th, 2015 No Comments
Game development has changed. It more true now than ever. The tools to develop video games are easier to come by with more accessible options to license powerful development engines. Even the means to finance development has radically shifted with the success, popularity and ease of crowd funding. It is a brave new world for game development, especially for the video game auteur.
While the means to develop games has become more open and accessible, the environment for major publishers has become more constricting. It is just business, and all that. Whatever cache a creator’s name had is gone. Konami’s ousting of Hideo Kojima and rebranding of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain sans Kojima may be the death rattle of the rock star creators.
No Man’s Land
For a long time, video games have been about the brand regardless of the creative force behind it. A Super Mario Bros. or Pac-Man game is what gets people’s juices flowing. However, there are always exceptions. Few creators have transcended the brands they helped birth. Without Hideo Kojima’s involvement in Metal Gear Solid, it doesn’t hold as much water. The man has supplanted the brand.
It doesn’t matter though, given increasing development times and costs, and publishers being more adverse to risk as a result. Dumping millions of dollars and years of development into one game based on the vision of an iconoclast doesn’t make much sense in the current environment. And this isn’t an isolated incident.
Capcom has a long track record of pushing away talented creators like Keiji Inafune. Konami itself has thrust talent out — Koji Igarashi and his hat and whip last year. What is an auteur to do when he is without a outlet?
Highly visible developers become linked to a game series, as Inafune was with Mega Man and Igarashi with Castlevania. When these games do well, the face of the franchise is able to continue championing the series. Yet when games underperform or the response isn’t frenzied, the series either goes on hiatus (Mega Man) or the publisher goes in a different direction (Castlevania).
The assumption is that fans no longer care about these games, so it makes no sense to continue putting resources into making them. This ends up hamstringing creators. But it is a false assumption that fans don’t care about these games anymore. This becomes clear when looking at the rousing crowd funding successes of Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
Inafune left Capcom in late 2010 to start Comcept. It would be another three years and a few games before he attempted to make another Mega Man game — or a game deceptively Mega Man-like. Yet, when Inafune and Comcept launched the Kickstarter campaign for Mighty No. 9, it was a massive success. The campaign raised nearly $3 million more than its stated goal, proving a rousing desire to see another Mega Man game even if it can’t officially star the blue bomber.
It didn’t take nearly as long for Igarashi to mount a spiritual successor to Castlevania. A year after his exodus from Konami, Igarashi launched a campaign for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. As obviously Mega Man as Mighty No. 9 is, Bloodstained is, without any restraint, a new Castlevania. Fans are apparently rabid for more “Igavania” games from the hat and whip maestro. The game raised its initial $500,000 funding goal within hours, and is on track to break several dozen stretch goals before its funding period closes. Once again, this proved there is a call for these creators, but not necessarily in the traditional game development structure.
Kept You Waiting, Bruh
Over the last few years we’ve seen rock star creators fall by the wayside with the closing of Irrational Studios, Cliff Bleszinski leaving Epic and the whole confusing affair with Sony and Fumito Ueda. With the removal of Kojima from MGS V materials and the cancellation of Silent Hills, the end of an era seems upon us.
The big question is what does Kojima do next? Does he start writing screenplay like Ken Levine? Does he take an independent route and make free-to-play games? Do we see him find another big industry home, or does he take his visions to the people like Inafune and Igarashi? Can the public afford to fund such elaborate visions without being promised exclusive spaceships?
tags: Bloodstained , Hideo Kojima , Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain , Mighty No. 9 , opinion , Silent Hills