So, legendary Japanese developer Hideo Kojima is starting from "zero" in 2009, and wants Kojima Productions on an equal footing with western studios.
From the great man himself: "We're currently reviewing everything - from the team structure to tools and our staff - in order to make Kojima Productions a team that can challenge foreign creators and software houses. So, because of that, 2009 is going to be a very important year for us.
I've come to understand that the way we've made games up until now won't translate globally, and I've come to think that I need to make Kojima Productions a team that can compete alongside the rest of the world.
I've thought a lot about how Western games have been winning, looking it from a global perspective, and there are things that I've noticed. So 2009 will be a year of change, a year where we start from zero again.
With games, you've got to use cutting-edge techniques, and doing so costs money - so I don't think you can make games that just appeal to the Japanese market. So, 2009 will see us continuing to think how to create a team that can take on the world."
Interesting words indeed. The big question is, what does this mean for Metal Gear Solid 5, a game Kojima himself has confirmed he is already thinking about? Is this the beginning of the Westernification of Metal Gear? What does that even mean? We've donned our Octocamo suit and climbed into our cardboard box to bring you what we reckon Kojima's words mean for the Metal Gear Solid franchise and its army of fans.
5. Metal Gear Solid 5 will be released for the Nintendo Wii
That's right Metal Gear fans, we said the Wii. So successful is Nintendo's motion-sensing phenomenon that it simply can't be ignored by any publisher or developer that wishes to not only remain profitable, but survive, especially in times of recession. Now obviously the Metal Gear games as we know and love them won't be an appropriate fit for the graphics-light Wii, so we're not suggesting Kojima will attempt to cram the next-gen version of MGS5 into the family-friendly console.
Instead, Kojima will create a separate team within Kojima Productions dedicated to making the most of the Wii Remote's potential. Remember, by then the Wii MotionPlus add-on will be out, which should ensure much more accurate and less frustrating waggling. We expect a game built from the ground up for the Wii, one that is intended to compliment the next-gen version, not copy it, with a separate plot and perhaps a different central character. It'll have mini-games, yes, and poorer graphics, but it'll be a Metal Gear game at heart, and, dare we say it, could actually be really good.
4. Metal Gear Solid 5 will have a competitive online multiplayer to rival the best shooters around
While Metal Gear Online, the competitive multiplayer component of the Metal Gear Solid 4 experience, is popular, it can't be considered brilliant. And despite the fact that it's free (it's comes with MGS4) we shouldn't allow it any more leeway when it comes to assessing its quality. Let's be frank - it's good, but it's got nothing on other competitive multiplayer shooter offerings on the market, like Call of Duty 4, Resistance 2, Halo 3, GTA IV or Gears of War. The perception is that Western gamers demand a quality competitive multiplayer online shooter component to go along with the epic story-based campaign.
If Kojima subscribes to this view then he'll feel that in order to make his games appeal to more than just the Japanese market, where online competitive shooters are less popular, he's going to have to do better than Metal Gear Online. Expect Metal Gear Solid 5, then, to feature an online experience to rival that of Halo 3 or Resistance 2, with full support inspired by Bungie.net and the Rockstar Games Social Club.
3. Metal Gear Solid 5 will have shorter cut-scenes and a more comprehensible plot
Long cut scenes and baffling plots are part of Metal Gear's soul. They make the series the unique, epic fusion of game and film that Kojima has pioneered throughout his illustrious career. But, when Kojima says "I don't think you can make games that just appeal to the Japanese market", and that he's "noticed" the odd thing from Western development, it's a clear indication that some of those "unique" gameplay elements that have, let's face it, spiralled a bit out of control, are under threat. Chief of these is the length of the cut scenes, which, in Metal Gear Solid 4, often bordered on the 90 minute mark.
Don't get us wrong, we loved the epicness of the game, and the cut-scenes themselves were often of such a high quality that we forgot we were playing a game and instead thought we were watching an actual Metal Gear movie, but at times they started to grate. There's no reason why they can't be reduced while still preserving the essence of what makes Metal Gear great.
And the plot, well, let's be frank, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Again, there's no reason why Kojima can't spin a quality yarn without making gamers' heads hurt. Expect Metal Gear Solid 5 to have shorter cut scenes and a more comprehensible plot.
2. Metal Gear Solid 5 will mark the beginning of a two-year development cycle for the series
Metal Gear Solid sells incredibly well. MGS4 sold a whopping 1 million copies in Europe during its first week on sale. In the second quarter of publisher Konami's 2009 financial year, the series as a whole sold over four million units. Because of the game's success, and it is a globally successful brand, Kojima's comments might be considered surprising. But they're not. Metal Gear Solid's stratospheric production value and "interactive movie" feel is such that it may well cost more to make than any other game around.
Kojima might feel that he's simply not making as much money as he could be from the franchise. Epic pumps out a new Gears of War game every two years, Activision has two independent developers, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, sharing Call of Duty... er... duty, in order to ensure there's one out in time for Christmas every year, and Insomniac has a two year cycle, too, releasing a Resistance game one year then a Ratchet and Clank game the next.
When Kojima says his company is starting from "zero" in 2009, with everything from team structure to tools and staff under review, he may well be hinting at plans for a similar development model. With the time consuming and costly cut-scenes drastically reduced in length, and the gameplay count increased, it would be viable option.
Expect Metal Gear Solid 5 to not only mark the beginning of a more regular Metal Gear Solid releases, but perhaps even the beginning of a slew of spin-offs. How about a squad-based first-person shooter based on the adventures of Fox Hound? You heard it here first.
1. Metal Gear Solid 5 will come out on Xbox 360
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a PlayStation 3 exclusive and, against all the odds, continues to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive nearly a year after its release. But if there's one thing we can take from Kojima's comments it's that this previously unflinching commitment to Sony's powerful platform is wavering not because of a Microsoft bribe, not because of fanboy pressure, not because of how easy or hard it is to develop for either platform, but because of the cold harsh reality of economics.
In these uncertain financial times it's more important than ever for triple A games to go multi-platform, giving them the greatest possible chance of recouping their ever increasing development costs because more people can buy them. Konami and Kojima Productions simply can't afford to release their games exclusively on one platform any more. What does this mean for Metal Gear Solid 5? Sorry PS3 fanboys, but it means it's coming to Xbox 360, too.
What do you think Kojima's comments mean for the future of the Metal Gear franchise? Let us know in the comments section below.
More PlayStation 3 News...