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 cugabuh
cugabuh

An, 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 berserker66666
berserker66666

@cugabuh: "Konami sent him to hell...but he's going even deeper. Kojima's gonna take back everything he's lost"

Avatar image for YEPEE00
YEPEE00

@cugabuh: freedom it's really really nice to see. (no comma)

Avatar image for gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

@7tizz: Average by your standards. Others think very differently and, justifiably, see him as a legend within the industry due to his dedication to his series'. Not many can say that they worked on a game franchise for almost 30 years.

As for MGS 5's review we all know that it was a case of pay to be allowed to review our game from Konami which had the clause 'only perfect scores are allowed to be given or you will be in breach of this contract and subject to civil lawsuits'.

Having said that I would have scored the game an 8 and only because of the repeated missions in 'chapter 2'.

Avatar image for maitkarro
maitkarro

@7tizz: The story was always a convoluted mess, that's why it was an edgy masterpiece, the gameplay was really good but nothing special, his story is like nothing else out there.

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

@7tizz: Yes, but the gameplay was incredible. He is one of the superstars of game design, like it or not.

Avatar image for spaced92
Spaced92

@7tizz: Whoever directed Rainbow Six Siege would not have had total control of dozens of successful and highly rated projects. Rainbow Six Siege is also incredibly focused and small scale, as much as I like it. There is nothing about it that is particularly ambitious.

Avatar image for yukushi
yukushi

What I really want Kojima to tell us is the secret to eternal youth because he does not seem to age.

Avatar image for Kasaioni
Kasaioni

@yukushi: I think that trait is shared by a lot of eastern Asian races, which probably has something to do with the diet that is common among them.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@Kasaioni: To some extent it is diet, yes. But it's also because western people (white people, largely) are only familiar to the cues of aging among white people. It's common for ethnicities to only be familiar with how their particular culture ages.

A lot of what white people consider aging is actually the effects of sun on the skin. White people are particularly susceptible to that.

A lot of the cues of aging in asian people are imperceptible to non-asian people. It's the same reason "all (whatever race) look alike". The person simply isn't attuned to the cues that they should be looking for.

Avatar image for DarkCaptain3
DarkCaptain3

@yukushi: Agreed.

Avatar image for str8killa007
str8killa007

Kojima is obsessed with Kojima.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@str8killa007: I don't care for Kojima, but I think you're wrong in this. All he's doing is answering questions. It's the games press who is obsessed with Kojima. They have created a character for him to play, and so they are obsessed with him as that character.

Avatar image for Arkhalipso
Arkhalipso

@str8killa007: He's kind of like the Kanye West of the gaming industry. I like him though.

Avatar image for nyran125tk
nyran125tk

"Your games are great but they take a while to come out".

^ Maybe that's one of the reasons why his games are great.

Avatar image for DarkCaptain3
DarkCaptain3

@nyran125tk: I feel its better to take your time and go at your own pace rather than rush a project and not feel its up to your standards, or second guess the project.

Avatar image for Jimbowesker
Jimbowesker

That guy is awesome. Although would love nothing more than for Kojima to say that Silent Hills PT was also in the works, I know that he will put his heart and soul into whatever he makes and his partnership with Sony just makes it even better. I just hope he doesn't get too far from the roots that got him famous!!

Avatar image for DarkCaptain3
DarkCaptain3

@Jimbowesker: Sadly Konami still owns the rights to that and they will not give it up unless Sony decides to buy the rights out for a obscene amount of money.

Avatar image for gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

@DarkCaptain3: It doesn't have to be called Silent Hills. Why pay for a franchises name when you can rename it and save millions?

Avatar image for DarkCaptain3
DarkCaptain3

@gotrekfabian: The problem with what your saying is then you can get into legal trouble as Konami will DEFINITELY sue if whatever they make seems to close to Silent Hills. Konami right now wants money so their probably going to be looking for any excuse to get money. Legally anything that may seem similar to P.T. (which is owned by Konami) or Silent Hills (also owned by Konami) they have the grounds to sue on and have a pretty good case.

Avatar image for gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

@DarkCaptain3: I hear what you're saying but you can't truly believe that if Kojima Productions were to make a horror game that they could definitely lose a lawsuit due to him having worked on a horror game with a previous organisation?

A game can have the flair of its director no matter which company they work for. I can only compare it to film whereby a director's input creates an almost unique je ne said qoui that has nothing to do with the organisation or those funding him to make a movie.

Having said that I'm sure that FucKonami would try the lawsuit no matter how different it was to Silent Hill or P.T.!

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@DarkCaptain3: Sony doesn't REALLY own PT. PT wasn't anything but a "playable trailer". It didn't have anything to do with Silent Hill. And there is really no reason to believe that the actual Silent Hills game would have anything to do with PT.

So, theoretically, we could still see whatever they were going to make. It just would be called something else.

Avatar image for DarkCaptain3
DarkCaptain3

@kiddynamo: Kindof confused here..... I never said Sony owned P.T. . Quite the opposite. Sony has no rights to that it belongs to Konami. Because of that we won't see something similar to it as Konami has the grounds to sue and they will gladly do it.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@DarkCaptain3: I'm sorry. I mean to say Konami doesn't really own PT.

PT was basically just a tech demo. The story, as far as I can tell, had nothing to do with what Silent Hills was going to be about. So basically the only thing Konami owns is the Foxdie engine.

So long as Kojima and Del Toro didn't make another game that contains a looping hallway and a talking fetus... I'm relatively certain they can do whatever the heck they want.

Avatar image for DarkCaptain3
DarkCaptain3

@kiddynamo: I agree with you there though I am sure Konami will find a way.

Avatar image for mirage_so3
mirage_so3

This has been said so many times it's meaningless.

Avatar image for sladey
sladey

Can't fail, or disappoint, then proceeds to tell us he wants his game to stretch into Manga and Anime. A genre that is lost to normal people outside Japan. That sort of contradicts itself as unless your into Manga/Amine it's going to disappoint, and possibly fail

Avatar image for maitkarro
maitkarro

@sladey: ANIME*

Get in touch with your inner otaku and start loving anime, though only the good kind.
Also what he said is normal for a japanese developer, that's what they mostly do when something gets popular it spreads into anime, manga or figures.

Avatar image for obywan
obywan

His success and his name are borne out of a single franchise. Yes he did other games as well but nothing which can be called a classic like MGS. Therefore, whatever he does next, it has to be phenomenal and new. I am glad that Sony is ready to bet so much on him. I'm also glad it's not my money.

Avatar image for HapiJoel
HapiJoel

@obywan: No, no he didn't.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@obywan: I disagree that his success and his name are borne out of a single franchise. In Japan, Hideo was known WAY more for Snatcher and Policenauts than he was for Metal Gear up until the US got crazy about him during the wind-up to Metal Gear Solid 2.

largely, I think the west has a poor and unfair image of him because the west created a character for him to play based solely on our interests in his games. In Japan, he's a much more well rounded figure.

Avatar image for obywan
obywan

@kiddynamo: Thanks for clarifying I take your point and maybe you're right, obviously I live in the west and I can only see a franchise which spawned multiple games and spinoffs vs two single games which are 15+ years old and never had sequels so of course I associate him with MGS. I don't question his skills I'm just saying that he will need to crate something that in addition to be good also needs to be an international commercial success in order to live up to the massive hype.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c9c41979056d

@obywan: You are right that lately he hasn't been able to do much other than MGS. If we are to believe the tales, he wanted to. Konami simply wouldn't let him.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@obywan: While Snatchers and Zone of Enders don't touch MGS, I'd still call them classics.

Avatar image for Exceed20XX
Exceed20XX

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

I guess that sort of drives home the point of how overbearing Konami must've been at the end of his tenure.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c0b07b32bf03

Kojima will come through. Whatever he has in mind, I have a sneaky feeling it's going to be groundbreaking.

Avatar image for hyksiu
hyksiu

But he cant fail guys. He must be confident in himself!

Avatar image for boerew0rs
Boerew0rs

@hyksiu:

His wife calls him Kanyejo Kojima...

Avatar image for LonelyStep
LonelyStep

I respect his talent and impact and all...but he sure does come off very arrogant and full of himself.

Avatar image for Kasaioni
Kasaioni

@LonelyStep: I think you sort of need to be "full of yourself" to a degree if you have so much creative control over projects as large as the one's he's been allowed to release. Most of the most popular and successful music celebrities are also the most "full of themselves" people out there,

Avatar image for LonelyStep
LonelyStep

@Kasaioni: I think I get what you're saying. If you're in this industry you ought to honestly believe that you have something unique to bring that no one else can do. Something like that? I agree, but I still find the humility in developers like Martin Sahlin and Sean Murray far more endearing. They're able to have confidence in their creations, but still come across as very down-to-earth.

Avatar image for maitkarro
maitkarro

@LonelyStep: I respect his talent and impact and all... but you sure come off very arrogant and full of yourself. There fixed.

Avatar image for LonelyStep
LonelyStep

@maitkarro: I do? Hmm, please explain then. I'm not sure where there's opportunity for that as I'm not touting my own accomplishments.

Avatar image for cleevergreen
CleeverGreen

Great interview. Typical Kojima. Can't wait for the next game.

Avatar image for yukushi
yukushi

Can you imagine how great this game is going to be I cant wait to play it.

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