Metal Gear Survive and Why Konami Doesn’t Care About the Hate

Originally published on Trevor Trove on August 17, 2016

One of the biggest announcements to come out of Gamescom so far has been the announcement of Metal Gear Survive from Konami.

As I’ve written before, I have no deep-seated connection to Kojima, Konami, or the Metal Gear series. But it looks as though this title will probably take the new mantle of “game that loud rabid fanboys scream about in forums” now that No Man’s Sky is out.

Apparently set in a parallel universe from the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain, the game will be a four-player co-op stealth title featuring some soldiers from the Mother Base destroyed at the end of Ground Zeroes that were sucked into a wormhole.

Absent all of the drama surrounding the fallout between Kojima and Konami in the past couple years, I would have said, “ok, sounds like another weird Metal Gear game.” But, of course, no art exists in a vacuum so when the trailer dropped late last night, the last thing I saw on Twitter before going to bed was a whole bunch of #FucKonami tweets. It’s certainly a bold move for Konami to go back to the Metal Gear well so soon with this title (announced for a 2017 release). And I for one will be very interested to see how it pays off.

Obviously, in the circles I run in (and most likely the ones you run in if you’re reading this), we’re all well-versed on the general David vs. Goliath story of the artist Kojima and the corporation Konami. Regardless of what actually may have happened behind the scenes at the studio, that’s the narrative that has been woven. So much so that the actual reality of the situation doesn’t even really matter. Kojima is the good guy, Konami the bad guy. If you know the story and you care about that over whether the game is any good or not, they’re not making the game for you (and the 40,000+ dislikes on the YouTube trailer above).

But what about the Venn Diagram of people who don’t follow the industry this closely and all consumers of video games in this generation? Or even limited to the consumers who bought Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. That is likely Konami’s target audience. Much like Metroid Federation Force, this game will inevitably draw in people who just know the franchise and nothing else about it. Metal Gear has made spin-off titles before.

If this were thirty years ago without the internet when the masses didn’t know better, this would probably even be like Super Mario Bros. 2 of all things. It wasn’t until years later that most Americans learned it was a re-skinned version of a completely different game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. Hell, I imagine most people who played it back then still don’t know any better. My dad doesn’t. Because why would he care? It’s often only within this echo chamber of the “elite informed gamer” where we hyper-analyze stuff like this. I would venture most of the people who were out there actually playing The Phantom Pain were only going to sites like IGN for wiki guides on how to beat a certain mission. They don’t care about the behind the scenes drama of the game: just that the game is good or not.

When George Lucas left Star Wars were people concerned? Some. But others had already decided he’d gone off the rails with the Prequels and needed to be stopped as well. It is entirely possible that Metal Gear Survive could somehow prove analogous to The Force Awakens.

I have friends who love the Metal Gear series who loved Phantom Pain and saw it as a culmination of Kojima’s decades with the franchise. I have friends who love the Metal Gear series who hated Phantom Pain because it wasn’t their version of Metal Gear. Are either of them wrong? No. Because that’s not how opinions work. Though I find it fascinating when I see people who didn’t even end up liking Phantom Pain pre-emptively trashing this game based on a trailer and their allegiance to Kojima. Not necessarily good or bad. Just fascinating.

There are people like me who enjoyed Phantom Pain and never touched another game in the series. And there will be people who play Metal Gear Survive having never played another game in the series. Because as much as we’d love to think everybody who plays games has their ear as close to the ground as many of us, the fact is we’re the minority.

So while the Metal Gear Survive trailer sits with its 4:1 dislikes to likes ratio, Konami isn’t phased by that. They knew the angry gamers of the internet were going to jump on that as soon as it was announced. Just like Activision did with the Call of Duty Infinite Warfare trailer. YouTube dislikes don’t correlate to sales. The people who are clicking the thumbs down weren’t going to buy these games anyway. Their mind was made up months before the trailers hit or the games were announced.

“I’m never buying another Konami game.” Ok, but if you bought Phantom Pain, Konami still got your money. Even if in your mind, you were only buying it to support Kojima, the message Konami received from your dollars was that the Metal Gear brand still has cache and they can maybe squeeze out another game with that Fox engine of theirs. So keep that in mind haters: you probably had a hand in creating the new target of your ire.

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