Kojima Snubbing Xbox Is Microsoft’s Fault Alone
The news that Hideo Kojima is free from his shackles at Konami makes all gamers happy. The news that his next project as an independent developer will be Playstation exclusive and that Sony will be publishing it isn’t making Xbox only owners very happy this morning.
Many of these Xbox only owners are detesting the idea of a partnership like this to fund an exclusive game, something Microsoft is known to do often. While it does suck that any player base who can’t afford or for whatever will not acquire the necessary platforms to play Kojima’s next masterpiece, this exclusivity deal isn’t unexpected or even unreasonable.
Kojima and Konami already had marketing deals in place with Sony for The Phantom Pain and PT/Silent Hills was only planned for Playstation. Its no secret that Kojima’s games are very eccentric in very Japanese ways. For example, Quiet’s stupid rain striptease with Big Boss in The Phantom Pain, which depending on your culture could be viewed as just mindless fun or voyeuristic, depending on where you’re coming from.
But its not just that Kojima’s Japanese influenced games would be a mismatch for the Xbox brand’s more western audience that makes his deal with Sony easier to understand, at least not on its own. Its that the Playstation audience has always been more receptive to Japanese game designers and their works, especially Kojima’s. I don’t think I need to point out to you how badly the last few Xbox consoles faired in Japan despite Microsoft coming out strong with numerous 360 exclusive JRPGs last gen.
Let’s not even look at how many times a Japanese game was released on Playstation and Xbox and it ended up selling better on Sony’s systems, which I argue are more receptive to Japanese games. Let’s just peak at how The Phantom Pain has fared this year. So far, it seems The Phantom Pain has sold 2.58M copies on PS4 while it has sold 420k copies on Xbox One. These are numbers from VGChartz so, you know LOLChartz and all, but it can’t be far off from the truth even if these numbers aren’t 100% confirmed. 2 million more units sold on Playstation while The Phantom Pain has trouble cracking half a million on Xbox.
It doesn’t stop there: Ground Zeroes sold 1.16M copies on PS4 while it only moved 250k units on Xbox One. So even a paid demo that fans and critics panned due to its lack of content still sold 1M more copies on Playstation. Heck, the PS4 version of Phantom Pain alone outsold all versions of Ground Zeroes.
Microsoft, despite their best efforts, has always been a step behind in Japan due to many cultural differences. Whether it be in business meetings, console & controller design or marketing, they’ve always been out of the loop in terms of what Japanese fans and game makers want from them. In a now infamous article from 2013, former Xbox Director of Third Party Relations Kevin Bachus described how Japanese game designers have never been keen on making Xbox games since the platform’s inception due to how poorly the Xbox was going to (and continued to) perform in Japan:
A lot of the classic console games have come from Japanese game publishers obviously. But that represents a very small percentage of the games they do. If you look at Namco, Ridge Racer or Tekken, very successful games in and out of Japan. But compared to the number of titles they do, most of which never see the light of day in the west, it’s a big investment to say, okay, we’re going to staff up an engineering effort to do a game specifically for this one title we think is probably going to be successful in two thirds of the world, and not the world that reflects well on us and we take pride in
Unfortunately, the Xbox ecosystem has always been mismatched for Japanese designers and consumers. For how much it nails exactly what an American consumer wants from their consoles, it misses the mark for Japanese players in nearly every way. This is due to many factors, perhaps some that are unfair to the company, but Microsoft has had 15 years to rectify the situation and hasn’t been able to. It isn’t that Japan is against accepting a major American company, they seem to enjoy Apple products and other large American brands. For whatever reason, Xbox has yet to find the magic recipe to entice the Japanese market.
Had Microsoft done X, Y or Z back in 2000-2002 when meeting with Japanese game makers, perhaps we’d be having a different discussion today. As is, there is no one to blame for Hideo Kojima snubbing the Xbox player base with this new Sony deal than Microsoft themselves. The same company that once convinced Kojima to join them at E3 to announce Metal Gear Solid Rising couldn’t convince him to even consider Xbox over Playstation first. His games have always sold better on Playstation due to his history with Sony platforms and Playstation consumers generally being more accepting to Japanese games.
It isn’t easy to see one platform getting excluded from a major third party game maker’s projects, no matter who it is. Still, it is nigh impossible to disagree with Kojima’s business sense as he knows which platform will gobble up his next game in droves, no matter what it is. Xbox only fans shouldn’t point their finger at Hideo or Sony but instead should focus their sights on Microsoft in the hopes that they will strengthen their ties with Japanese developers in the near future to avoid situations like this.
If Metal Gear barely moves half a million units on Xbox this generation, how would a new IP from Kojima without the financial backing from a company like Sony make sense as a multiplatform release? If Kojima’s next game is destined to sell 500k or less on Xbox, can it reasonably turn much of a profit for Hideo’s new studio? Its up to Microsoft to make the Xbox platform attractive for third party developers, third party developers aren’t donating their games to charity. Yes, its a chicken and the egg situation where fans ask “how are Japanese third party titles suppose to sell better on Xbox if they don’t release on Xbox,” but its up to Microsoft to convince them to take that risk.
You can’t blame the 2010 Miami Heat for signing the biggest free agent in NBA history, LeBron James, despite how devastating it was to Cleveland economically. The same can be said about Sony, who just snatched up gaming’s biggest free agent for at least one game. Like how LeBron’s move in 2010 made sense since it put him closer to a title, Kojima’s new deal with Sony makes too much sense for the man himself and every fan needs to understand this difficult truth.