Feature Article

Hideo Kojima Interview: The Dawn of a New Era

"I can't fail. I can't disappoint"

At DICE Summit 2016, hours ahead of his keynote presentation with film director and friend, Guillermo Del Toro, we had a chance to sit down and chat with Hideo Kojima to discuss his new found freedom as an independent developer. After his seemingly troubled tenure at Konami, the famed Metal Gear creator is free to do as he pleases thanks to his partnership with Sony; a deal that he says comes with no restrictions. By and large, it’s clear that Kojima has a new lease on life and is planning to take full advantage of the support he’s received from industry friends and fans alike, but rather than collaborate with his peers, he's focused on making the next Hideo Kojima game, first and foremost.

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GameSpot: Congratulations on getting out and starting your new company. It's been about two months since the new Kojima Productions studio was announced. What kind of progress has been made since the day of the announcement, in terms of hiring and getting off the ground?

Kojima: In theory--and ideally--you put together some staff, you look for facilities, and then you start working on a project, planning and testing, but...I'm doing all of this in parallel. Many people say, "Your games are great but they take a while to come out," so I'm trying to change that.

How do you decide what to work on first? You have the world in front of you: how do you choose the right project?

Originally, after working for 30 years in one company, I was thinking of taking a one-year hiatus. But if I don't keep creating, I will definitely get rusty. So I was thinking of making not a blockbuster, but something more edgy, maybe a small movie. That was my original thought process.

"Many people say, "Your games are great but they take a while to come out," so I'm trying to change that." -- Kojima

However, after talking with several friends and fans, a lot of people told me, "Everyone is expecting a lot from your next project, and it has to be a big one. Something that goes over a game that earned perfect scores; something that goes beyond that. Don't get derailed."

So I gathered my thoughts and considered the situation, and I decided that I would work on an edgy project. There are many things that I want to do, but I didn't have to think too much about which one I wanted to work on; it kind of came naturally, what I'm working on now.

How are you dealing with the pressure that comes with the responsibility of running your own studio?

I have to be honest, for this project I'm working on, there's are a lot of people, staff members, and fans who have high expectations. I have the feeling that I can't fail. I can't disappoint. I can't go out there and do something too, too extreme, so there's a little bit of that which I have to deal with.

Especially, because it's our first game and we're working with Sony, I want to make sure that it's a great game for Sony, so there is pressure in that. However, I'm not even thinking of letting any of that to change anything that's in the game.

Sony seems like a good fit for you. Is that because they've given you total freedom? Is Sony controlling any aspect of what your first project will be?

They are not controlling what I'm doing at all; that was part of the conditions, and Sony was very respectful towards me and what I do. In that regard, it's been very nice, and very pleasant.

When you think about your success, does it surprise you? Did you imagine that you would get to this point when you started making games?

The first Metal Gear Solid title was surprising because I just made what I wanted to play, and I didn't expect it to perform that well, and it actually didn't need to perform that well, so that success was a surprise.

Metal Gear Solid was a surprise, and with Metal Gear Solid 2, there was a need to expand and build a market, so I had to keep that in mind. One thing that I never want to do is to change anything so that a game can to sell more copies.

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If you could go back 30 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?

I guess it would be: "Believe in yourself." Even now, and with the previous franchises that I worked on, whenever you try to do something really new, it's hard to people to understand. The closer they are--and especially the people that are really close to you--they are opposed to doing something completely new. When you try to create something that doesn't exist it's difficult to communicate and convey that message to staff. There are always people telling me that I have to do things a certain way, but the only way to do what I want is to believe in myself.

Another piece of advice I would give myself...given that I didn't expect Metal Gear to be so successful: I would tell myself to make something that wouldn't be successful. It would have made things a lot easier. I don't mean to brag with what I'm about to say, but I'm always making adjustments and playing the games I make, and I think to myself, "This is too fun, this is going to make other jobs harder. I need to make it a little more boring, because it's just too good."

Are you cautious about making another game that could turn into a series?

For this, with Sony, we are working on a project that will be a new IP, of course, and I have no idea if it's going to be a series or not, but I want to make something that will have a big enough impact to become a series. By impact, I mean from the things that are unique to the game, the characters, and the world. This impact can lead into something outside of games, such as anime, manga, figures; something that is rich enough to expand.

Are you more interested in making a game with a really strong narrative, or really strong gameplay?

Both, because people expect both from me. I want to do something that gives a lot of freedom and interactivity. Like I did in the past, I want to make something that has a very strong, dramatic story. That's what people want from me and that's what I want to do. It would be so much easier if I could give priority to one or the other, but people expect both from me. At this point, it would be easier to make a linear game, but that's not…

"Sony is supporting us to make a big game that's edgy with a strong story that gives the player a lot of freedom" -- Kojima

It's risky, because we're just starting up, so it probably would be better to go with something smaller-scale, maybe linear, but Sony is supporting us to make a big game that's edgy with a strong story that gives the player a lot of freedom, with new elements, and I don't know if that's possible. But we'll see.

Will your next project be a collaboration with another creator?

At this point, fans are expecting a game that’s mine, with 80-90 percent of my blood in it, so I would like to make collaborations, but that would lower the density of my identity in this game. Collaborations should be for other projects.

People make a lot of assumptions about you; what's the biggest misconception?

A lot of people say that I spent too much money or take too much time, but that’s a misconception. My last project was late about five or six months, but I’ve always kept my word on timelines and budget. For example, I do take three to four years to make games, but that's the plan from the start.

I take a lot of time because I create my own teasers, posters, and I work on how to create the box for sales. Japanese creators are famous for being loose with schedules, and I think people put me in that category, but it's not reality. In my case, I'm a director and a producer, so I have to stay aware of production and the budget.

Lastly, how is your beard working out?

I'm not used to it, so I think about shaving it every day. In becoming an independent and creating my own studio, I wanted to change something about my look. I've received a lot of positive comments from people outside Japan about my beard, but inside Japan, beards have a bad image. People think, “You look old, you look tired." My kids definitely don't like it.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today, and congratulations on your upcoming award.

Thank you. I'm really glad I can now have a decent, normal interview. It just feels so good.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

doc-brown

Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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Avatar image for Speranza318
Speranza318

I'm looking forward to his next game. It's nice to have someone as dedicated as him in the gaming community. Now he can take his own time and deliver a product that is refined. I feel like too many games nowadays is "rushed out". This is why the FF 7 remake is going to come in parts: the alternative is making 1 game under time constraints and compromising a lot of plot and side quests, ultimately ruining the experience.

Avatar image for AndreasRufus
AndreasRufus

>>Sony is supporting us to make a big game that's edgy with a strong story that gives the player a lot of freedom<<

I don't want freedom in a game, I want to experience a story!!! Look at MGSV. Sure, the "freedom" was great, but what was it good for? The whole story did lack because of way too much freedom!

Avatar image for Speranza318
Speranza318

@AndreasRufus: Also the game was just plain rushed and as a result was unfinished from a story standpoint...but I agree with what you're saying: there was way too much gameplay and roaming in between story. Compared to, let's say, the Witcher 3 or Fallout 4 which I felt was a nice balance between gameplay and story revelation. I think MGS: SE and MGS 4 did it right in terms of balance of gameplay and story.

Avatar image for leon-strife
Leon-Strife

This man can tell amazing stories, so he should tell them. That's why I didn't like MG5. The story was just ok, which is bad for a MG. There was just to much corperate pressure. I hope Sony will give him true creative freedom. He should take all the time he needs and come up with something amazing.

Avatar image for pimpistv
Pimpistv

fAK OFF BACK TO WORK KOJIMA, STOP SPAMMING YO FACE AROUND BLA BLA BLA MGS WAS ONLY OK

Avatar image for saturatedbutter
SaturatedButter

Just let the man make his anime. It's all he really wants.

Avatar image for PinchySkree
PinchySkree

I'm hoping that logo animates a little at the game startup screen.

Avatar image for callofduty541
callofduty541

I am so looking forward to his next projects and so happt to see a great artist flex his muscles and is able to use his full aritstic views without being held back.

Avatar image for stardogchampion
Stardogchampion

I hope kojima decides to continue the z.o.e saga somewheres down the road. Konami may own the rights but maybe change the title to zone of the ludicrous speed badass robots! Lol in any case i can't wait to know more details on this new project of his and where it will stand on the awesome meter!

Avatar image for SunnySkyNL
SunnySkyNL

If there is one thing I could say to Kojima it's that he should take his time making a game like he did before and don't start releasing a game every year. One of the big problems with games these days is that they are rushed and series are going on for to long because they are a hit.

Avatar image for StonerDemon
StonerDemon

I want this guy to be the director of the next Star Wars film. And I would have loved to see him directing the Evangelion Rebuild.

Metal Gear, Snatcher, Policenauts, P.T. ... I will keep my hopes high.

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

Glad he is partnering with sony, seems like a perfect fit for kojima.

Avatar image for MichielNu
MichielNu

Metal Gear Solid is just a bunch of nonsense. It's cool to like stuff you don't understand.

Just kidding lol

Avatar image for putaspongeon
PutASpongeOn

@MichielNu: Metal Gear Solid 2, let alone 3 and beyond, are better games than games we're getting NOW.

Avatar image for gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

It kinda sucks that his next project will be a PS4 exclusive and not a multi platform game. Well at least hope it will be amazing.

Avatar image for jokeyjoey2014
jokeyjoey2014

@gamefreak215jd: Console exclusive, it's coming to PC too :)

Avatar image for arno_407
Arno_407

Kojima Productions all the way!!

Avatar image for steamaddict
Steamaddict

Get off your high horse and make a game that doesnt suck

Avatar image for putaspongeon
PutASpongeOn

@steamaddict: He's never made a bad game.

Avatar image for VakarianGirl
VakarianGirl

I'm so tired of this little punk.

Avatar image for analgrin
analgrin

@VakarianGirl: Stop reading articles about him then?!?!?

Avatar image for FuNkAdR0
FuNkAdR0

Zone of the Enders 3 please! With a collector edition that contains a proper figma of the mecha and animations from Sunrise + Production I.G.

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

@FuNkAdR0: ip belongs to konami

Avatar image for J-007
J-007

The kind of work I see in his metal gear games is remarkable and I think he really set the bar on the MGS2. If I were to see Kojima on his retirement in a crowded house..I would give him applause from about 1 to 5 minutes after his speech. What an accomplished man he is so far

Avatar image for GunEye
GunEye

People keeps clinging to Kojima's side of the story, hating Konami and saying how hard, how much of a prison and a living hell that was -- hold your horses. Yes, it was probably problematic in many ways, but no need to be so ungrateful!!

He owes his career, success and fame to them - Konami. You can't ignore the company who nurished, raised you and brought you to where you stand now. They funded his projects, they allowed him to do the things he did etc. If there is one thing I don't respect is someone being utterly 'forgetful' of past merits and ungrateful.

Also, don't forget - we no little to nothing - mere rumors, opinions, fan biased speculations - about his parting with Konami. What happened, who hurt who, who did wrong...

And you know what? The truth is - most likely - IT WAS MUTUAL. TO SOME EXTENT. Something was happening there for years clashes, disagreements, mutual issues. Things we will never really know, not in an objective, unbiased manner.

A developer won't let go of their best man so easily and willingly.

Anyway, I am happy he feels more free now, more liberate to do as he pleases. I was positively surprised by this review. Sure it had some of that high-in-the-cloud ego, but not too much of it. It was rather honest, simple, humble. I like it. I hope he won't disappoint.

I was a bit disappointed with the direction he took his big game MGS5 last time. But that's a different topic.

Now it's time to deliver, make games to remember.

Oh and about the beard: it is crazy how different are the Japanese from the rest of the world. In contemporary fashion, beards are actually quite fashionable - and at least in my eyes -they make the man appear younger, not old and tired.

Avatar image for Kiaininja
Kiaininja

@GunEye: Nobody just took only Kojima's word for it. If you were following the incident you would know that people were wary at choosing sides first but Konami's themselves did so much questionable actions during the incident that Kojima didn't have to do or say anything at all to paint them negatively. Konami CEOs declaring that they are going to dump AAA console games for smart phones and pachinco arcades, forbidding media from mentioning Kojima's name on his Metal Gear 5 project, and forbidding Kojima from attending award ceremonies. All of this BS was done by Konami's own hand and is the cause for gamers not to care about them.

Avatar image for GunEye
GunEye

People keeps clinging to Kojima's side of the story, hating Konami and saying how hard, how much of a prison and a living hell that was -- hold your horses. Yes, it was probably problematic in many ways, but no need to be so ungrateful!!

He owes his career, success and fame to them - Konami. You can't ignore the company who nurished, raised you and brought you to where you stand now. They funded his projects, they allowed him to do the things he did etc. If there is one thing I don't respect is someone being utterly 'forgetful' of past merits and ungrateful.

Also, don't forget - we no little to nothing - mere rumors, opinions, fan biased speculations - about his parting with Konami. What happened, who hurt who, who did wrong...

And you know what? The truth is - most likely - IT WAS MUTUAL. TO SOME EXTENT. Something was happening there for years clashes, disagreements, mutual issues. Things we will never really know, not in an objective, unbiased manner.

A developer won't let go of their best man so easily and willingly.

Anyway, I am happy he feels more free now, more liberate to do as he pleases. I was positively surprised by this review. Sure it had some of that high-in-the-cloud ego, but not too much of it. It was rather honest, simple, humble. I like it. I hope he won't disappoint.

I was a bit disappointed with the direction he took his big game MGS5 last time. But that's a different topic.

Now it's time to deliver, make games to remember.

Oh and about the beard: it is crazy how different are the Japanese from the rest of the world. In contemporary fashion, beards are actually quite fashionable - and at least in my eyes -they make the man appear younger, bot old and tired.

Avatar image for GunEye
GunEye

People keeps clinging to Kojima's side of the story, hating Konami and saying how hard, how much of a prison and a living hell that was -- hold your horses. Yes, it was probably problematic in many ways, but no need to be so ungrateful!!

He owes his career, success and fame to them - Konami. You can't ignore the company who nurished, raised you and brought you to where you stand now. They funded his projects, they allowed him to do the things he did etc. If there is one thing I don't respect is someone being utterly 'forgetful' of past merits and ungrateful.

Also, don't forget - we no little to nothing - mere rumors, opinions, fan biased speculations - about his parting with Konami. What happened, who hurt who, who did wrong...

And you know what? The truth is - most likely - IT WAS MUTUAL. TO SOME EXTENT. Something was happening there for years clashes, disagreements, mutual issues. Things we will never really know, not in an objective, unbiased manner.

A developer won't let go of their best man so easily and willingly.

Anyway, I am happy he feels more free now, more liberate to do as he pleases. I was positively surprised by this review. Sure it had some of thar high-in-the-cloud ego, but not too much of it. It was rather honest, simple, humble. I like it. I hope he won't disappoint.

I was a bit disappointed with the direction he took his big game MGS5 last time. But that's a different topic.

Now it's time to deliver, make games to remember.

Oh and about the beard: it is crazy how different Japanese people are. In contemporary fashion, beards are actually quite fashionable - and at least in my eyes -they make the man appear younger, bot okd and tired.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

Hideo Kojima is a)the best looking developer in games and b) is somehow eternally 30 years old. It's nuts.

Avatar image for itchyflop
itchyflop

anticipation is the best way to describe how i feel about kojima now, iv followed and seen his round the world tech trip, who hes hooked up with, what hes doing, now lets see some game action of what hes making.

The guys a ledg, i cant see how he will lwt down fans.

Avatar image for MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

We probably won't hear anything on what he's working on for some time, maybe 2017 or 2018 we'll hear something....

I say take all the time that's needed.....there's enough high profile games that are rushed out so the on;y thing I expect is just take time, do the best you can and in the end I know it'll be cool.....

I know full well a typical game can take 5-7 years max to produce a quality game.....

Avatar image for N4o7A
N4o7A

KOJIMA HAS KIDS?! HE'S MARRIED?!?!

Avatar image for GunEye
GunEye

@N4o7A: I know, sorry to disappoint you, shutter your dreams ;)

Avatar image for N4o7A
N4o7A

@GunEye: Looks like I can no longer save myself for Kojima-sempai

@kiddynamo he could've been a wizard doe

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@GunEye: He's 52. If he didn't have kids now, he certainly never would...

Avatar image for deactivated-57d0fe42747d9

Kojima can take as much time as he needs. He always releases quality.

Avatar image for hughthehand88
HughTheHand88

@plastiqueworld: MGSV is pretty amazing. First time I ever played half a game that someone then doubled and increased the difficulty on the second half. Genius.

Avatar image for LowTechGeek
LowTechGeek

GameSpot really needs a copy editor.

Avatar image for cugabuh
cugabuh

Damn, that last sign off sentence almost made me tear up. Sounds like he was in hell before. Glad to see him freed from the pits of Konami.

Avatar image for daviz88
daviz88

Awesome logo

Avatar image for ya-get-me
ya-get-me

Really interested in what he is working on.. But worried by the demands that sony is putting on him. I wanted to see him just make the game he wanted to make. It already sounds like sony is demanding an open world game. sigh..

"It's risky, because we're just starting up, so it probably would be better to go with something smaller-scale, maybe linear, but Sony is supporting us to make a big game that's edgy with a strong story that gives the player a lot of freedom, with new elements, and I don't know if that's possible. But we'll see."

Seems like out of the frying pan and into the fire...I wish he had just made the little game he was planning.

Avatar image for Kasaioni
Kasaioni

@ya-get-me: I got the sense he was talking about "friends and fans" as those who wanted him to do another big project, not specifically and only Sony.

Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

@ya-get-me: Perhaps but at the same time it sounds like what Sony wants is what Kojima likes to make anyway. The part about risk sounded more like Kojima expressing reality of business now that he's on his own. You could maybe say that Sony is pushing him to be himself rather than take the safer path of doing a small linear game first.

Avatar image for BigBossWato
BigBossWato

@ya-get-me: they might be putting some larger then normal demands on his fledgling company but Sony doesn't mind give as much support to devs as they can and they will give Kojima as much time as he need to create whatever he wants.

Avatar image for r31ya
r31ya

@BigBossWato: While Kojima is a big name, Sony is known to give support for smaller game companies with little amount of binding contract.

Do you think why many smaller companies and indies, release their game in PS4 first?

Try to browse around indies and smaller game companies that release their game in PS4 first and you'll found sentence like

"We consider all option (implying Xb1), and we believe Sony is the one to go."

Not sure one what went wrong with XB1 contract that causes them to go Sony first. I'm genuinely curious about that part.

Also to note, this major support for smaller companies actually started when smaller game companies having hardtime with PS3, which causing Sony to start to give the technical expertise.

Avatar image for ya-get-me
ya-get-me

@BigBossWato: hmm.. I dont know how true that is.

Avatar image for dinosaur_teeth
Dinosaur_Teeth

Good Stuff...

Avatar image for wtf_666
wtf_666

@dinosaur_teeth: Good good stuff.

Avatar image for dinosaur_teeth
Dinosaur_Teeth

Good Stuff...

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