- Related Games:
- Contra: Rogue Corps
It might be hard to remember due to recency bias, but Konami used to be one of the most beloved publishers in all of gaming. With a huge catalog of gaming giants like Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania, Bomberman, Frogger, Silent Hill, Pro Evolution Soccer, and Dance Dance Revolution, the Japanese developer successfully put critically acclaimed games for over 30 years and its diverse library had something for any type of gamer. However, the company has taken quite the hit in relevancy as of late, as it has gone from releasing AAA titles to primarily putting out pachinko machines and mobile experiences. Luckily for those that miss the company’s glory days, Konami Europe president Masami Saso has gone on record saying that the company is planning to release more console games “with other globally known IPs in the near future” and that “high-end console games are the most important” to them going forward. With that goal in mind, the release of Contra: Rogue Corps grows in importance.
A lot of Konami’s current issues in terms of reputation can be traced back to 2015. It was an extremely busy year for the publisher as it not only released a strong Game of the Year Candidate with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, but had a public break-up of sorts with Hideo Kojima, who had practically been the face of the company for over 25 years thanks to the success of Metal Gear, Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, and Policenauts. The severing of this business relationship had a ton of side effects: Silent Hills was canceled, Konami dissolved Kojima Productions and delisted itself from the New York Stock Exchange, and CEO Hideki Hayakawa said the developer would focus on mobile games going forward. You couldn’t go online without seeing gamers trash the company as “fuck Konami” became a popular slogan whenever Kojima was mentioned, and more Americans talked about pachinko parlors than ever before.
While it is fun to dunk on Konami for targeting mobile games and putting out (extremely rad looking) Metal Gear Solid 3 pachinko machines, there is no denying that this was actually a great business decision. The company had profits grow for five straight years, despite them largely ignoring the console scene. However, it would be unfair (and simply untrue) to act like it hasn’t been putting out games during this span because it still has. Konami has been putting out Japanese baseball games and Pro Evolution Soccer on a yearly basis and a handful of unique titles and remasters like Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS, and Metal Gear Survive (stop snickering, it wasn’t that bad).
The future of Konami will rely on its past
If you take a look at what games Konami has put out since 2015, you’ll see one trend emerge: it is only putting out games in established franchises that have some name value attached to them. This is a smart decision by the company as fans still have an attachment to the series even if they are signing online petitions bemoaning the publisher for past discretions. Slowly but surely, Konami has been keeping its name out there as a successful games publisher and if Saso is to be believed then a greater push is coming to consoles in the future.
2017’s Super Bomberman R was one of the company’s first major releases in the post-Kojima era. While it received some criticism of being bare-bones due to being rushed out for the Nintendo Switch’s launch, it was supplemented with a bunch of free DLC and updates that added new characters and modes. This move placated most fans that had issues and that type of post-launch support is a great way to be celebrated online rather than derided. The first mainline Bomberman game in over a decade was so much of a success that it sold over 1 million copies worldwide after being ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Konami celebrated the sales milestone by the only sensible way, which was taking Bomberman bungee jumping.
Earlier this year, Konami released three compilations celebrating its past titles. While one was a more random collection of arcade hits, the two most important ones focused on two of its most popular series: Castlevania and Contra. Not only are these types of collections a great way to put a new product on digital storefronts, but it keeps players aware and talking about some of Konami’s greatest titles. On the Contra Anniversary Collection‘s release date, the company revealed that it was working on a new Contra game, so there was a method to their cash grab, so to speak.
Contra: Rogue Corps can show us a bright future for Konami
The aforementioned Contra title wound up being Contra: Rogue Corps, which is set after Contra 3: The Alien Wars and is being overseen by Nobuya Nakazato, who oversaw Contra: Hard Corps and has a long history with the series. It looks to be wonderfully weird with a cyborg giant panda being one of the four playable characters and looks to play like 2004’s Neo Contra. It’s an interesting title because it’s not riffing on the original Contra, which is certainly the most well-known of the series, but rather its later titles and more off-beat sequels. In short, it’s not what a company would do if it was looking to indifferently cater towards nostalgia. Instead, it has the spirit of a passion project behind it.
Clearly not meant to move millions of units, Rogue Corps still has an important goal in shifting the conversation around Konami. If it winds up being a solid twin-stick shooter, then the company can have people talking about its awesome new game rather than making the same tired jokes at its expense. More retro revivals could be in Konami’s future and it has already announced Hyper Sports R for Nintendo Switch, which should release just in time for the Olympics similar to the 1984 original. Gaming is a cruel business, but Konami seems to be navigating its ever-changing waves increasingly well after its reputation took a nosedive and is poised to have its games be a talking point once again rather than its other revenue streams.