Konami apologized to fans today for causing anxiety about its games and how they do business, in a letter sent to Polygon. In it, the company explains when and why the company underwent a major structural reorganization and that consoles remain an important part of its future.
"The aim of this reform has been to guarantee that, in the quickly-changing digital entertainment industry where new game designs and platforms constantly alter the market environment, we can accurately observe new customer demands and market trends, and apply our long-established technology and knowhow quickly and effectively with a range of targeted responses," according to the letter. "The reorganization process has entailed repositioning our production studios, shifting our game development to a more centralized production division system. Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain director Hideo Kojima and his team members are hard at work in the new production division system, bringing the game ever closer to completion."
A lot changed for Konami in April, with rumors of Kojima's departure, the cancellation of the hotly anticipated Silent Hills and the appointment of a new, mobile-centric president, but little of it has been talked about by the company publicly.
That changed earlier this month, when Hideki Hayakawa, who assumed the role of president of Konami Digital Entertainment on April 1, sat down for an interview with Nikkei Trendy Net. In the interview, Hayakawa discussed the importance of mobile gaming for Konami, and many took that to mean that a sea change was coming to the company behind Metal Gear Solid, Pro Evolution Soccer and Silent Hill. Specifically, Hayakawa also talked about how mobile was the future for gaming.
But in the statement released this week to Polygon, Konami explained that some of those quotes "lacked the necessary context and caused unrest within our key stakeholders including our community, members of the press, our partners and our fans.
"We are aware that the conjecture surrounding our recent changes has prompted a great deal of anxiety, for which we apologize," according to the statement.
Konami translated the entire article and sent it to Polygon for republishing on the site (You can read it here in its entirety). In it, Hayakawa explains that, while executive producer on a mobile game in 2010, he "strongly felt that mobile devices would soon become the major game platforms, and that our business would depend on running an 'operation-driven' model that would allow us to stay abreast of changing customer usage trends and swiftly evolve our games to suit them."
That means that in terms of arcade, console and card games, the company needed to get away from just making the game itself, but also work to create add-on content.
He later explained what Konami's take on "mobile first" will be.
"Our aim is to continue to build up a comprehensive portfolio of console, arcade, and card game titles for each IP while also making the best possible use of the mobile devices that accompany our customers in their daily life, thus expanding the limits of entertainment and appealing to more and more customers," he said.
In wrapping up the interview, Nikkei Trendy Net asked Hayakawa for his take on the future of games.
He said he believes that mobile devices will be a driving force in the game industry's growth and that eventually it will "become meaningless to categorize the market."
"The role of the mobile platform will be to connect people with their games across various devices, and so the methods and presentation employed in distributing information on mobile devices will be critical," he said.
Just as interestingly, Hayakawa also talked a bit about the Konami structural reorganization, perhaps offering a bit of insight into what happened with Silent Hills and Kojima.
He said a new centralized production division system was introduced on March 16.
"With the new structure, we will also be making clear distinctions between management and creative roles," he said. "Until now, in addition to game development duties, our creators were handling a wide range of responsibilities including managerial roles. This can be a helpful approach when a studio concentrates on progressively specializing in a specific style of product, but we have found that a sudden market shift can render that specialization invalid and leave the studio unable to keep up."
In the past, he said, Konami struggled to quickly react to market shifts.
"Based on these lessons, we have changed our approach to instead have managerial staff thoroughly focus on strategy and how their individual skills can be best applied, with that strategy then being executed together with the creative staff."
In the letter provided to Polygon, Konami reiterated its support of both the Metal Gear and Silent Hill series.
"Regarding the release of Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from fans in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and elsewhere worldwide who are eagerly awaiting the game's much anticipated Sept. 1 launch," according to the letter. "To this end, the development team is diligently working together to ensure those high expectations are answered in full.
"We would also like to take this opportunity to state that the Metal Gear and Silent Hill series, both beloved by countless fans around the globe, are also extremely important to Konami. We have nurtured them with care over many years since their inception, and will continue to produce products for both franchises, but we are not currently at a stage where we can announce the path these future titles will take. Konami will continue to embrace the challenge of creating entertainment content via different platforms; across not only mobile platforms, but for home consoles, arcade units, and cards, to meet the changing needs of the times."