Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The end of the video game director

Its been a sad week in video games. First is all a bunch rumours about Hideo Kojima, legendary director of the Metal Gear series being treated like crap by Konami surfaced. (see above video) A lot of signs have been popping up such as the cancellation of Silent Hills but Konami's silence speaks volumes.

Sounds like Konami is going to put more money into mobile gaming, gambling and health centres. (no, not those type of health centres) The shift to mobile gaming is changing gaming for the worse. Video games are created to make money but video games are also art, and while not as low risk as mobile gaming and gambling machines, a great game such as Bloodborne provides an experience that other mediums cannot rival.

Speaking of Bloodborne, the President of Sony's Worldwide Studious just platinumed the damn game. No one can doubt his gaming credentials and he believed in the Souls series for Sony to pump some money in and allow From Software to create this masterpiece. I'm playing NG+ and bloody hell, its even more difficult.

Sadly, he is one of the few executives who understand that creating good games takes time and effort and is willingly to gamble on a good studio and director.

Castlevania's director Igarashi was also in the news this week for raising 1 million to create the rip off of his own game. Konami killed the series by trying to go God of War with it and Igarashi, could not not even get any of the video game companies to take a punt on him. Japanese companies would rather produce cheap games about looking up underwear than investing in a director with a proven track record.

However, is this all fault of video game executives or just an effect of the way sales are going? Hardcore gamers can talk about gameplay but sales speak different. According to Sega Sammy's Financial Statement, the much derided Sonic Boom sold 620 000 copies while Ryu ga Gotoku 0 only sold 380 000 copies.While one can argue that Sonic Boom is combined worldwide sales, and the Yakuza series typically sells about 200 000 copies outside Japan, the fact is that a cheaply made, outsourced game outsold a game that had 30 AV actresses and a lot more blood, sweat and other bodily fluids.

Unless you are a major publisher who can pump huge amounts of money into marketing so that the voices saying how repetitive and boring your pretty game are drowned out, the alternative is low risk, high return. Bayonetta 2 was universally praised and caused me to get a Wii U but sales were very bad. Luckily Nintendo has been printing money since the DS and Wii but is any executive in Nintendo going to put more money in Bayonetta 3 because the series so good, damn the sales? (I will sacrifice a lot of animals for this to happen)

Companies now live or die by their games. Dollars talk louder than a celebrated director who has brought millions of dollars of profit. The amount of time and money to invest in making a real AAA game like MGS5 (not fake AAA games with random mission generators) is difficult for an executive who has to do quarterly earning reports to investors. Even Yuji Naka was forced to delay his Wii game by the publisher which in turned killed sales cause the gameplay was more suited to the Wii than Wii U.

The only ones left standing is Toshihiro Nagoshi, now chief producer of Ryu ga Gotoku, Hidetaka Miyazaki, director of the Souls games and Kamiya of Platinum games. Hopefully with him being on Sega's board of directors, the series will never die. Inafune had to use kickstarter to make a Rockman game cause Capcom can't even afford him the budget to make one. Hironobu Sakaguchi and Yu Suzuki are making mobile games. If Street Fighter 5 doesn't sell more than 2 millions copies next year, the series is over.

While it is true that no one is bigger than a company but it looks like no company today will back a director's vision all the way.

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