Report: Konami Is Treating Its Staff Like Prisoners

Report: Konami Is Treating Its Staff Like Prisoners

According to a report on Nikkei, the corporate culture at Konami — home of Metal Gear, Silent Hill and Pro Evolution Soccer — hasn't only soured over the past few years, but has become almost terrifyingly Orwellian.

Nikkei's report alleges that the culture at the corporation's video game division, famous for its console games, worsened in around 2010 when a mobile title called Dragon Collection became a smash hit. As a social game for phones, development costs were low and profit returns were huge. Not long after, the report says, Konami's corporate bosses shifted the company's focus away from traditional, hardcore games and towards cheaper, and potentially more lucrative social titles.

(Somewhat related, the same Nikkei report says that Metal Gear Solid 5's development costs have surpassed 10 billion yen/US$80 million).

In a country where mobile gaming has exploded in popularity, the fact Konami has pivoted to this type of offering isn't in itself surprising. What is, however, are some of the office conditions Nikkei reports have arisen as a result of the shift, especially with regards to how Konami treats employees.

Here's a breakdown of the Nikkei piece's allegations. Some of it we've heard before. Some of it is new:

  • Kojima Productions, the studio behind the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V (and long famous as a brand of its own), is now simply known as "Number 8 Production Department." The computers in this section, Nikkei says (and as we reported earlier this year), are allegedly not connected to the internet and are only able to send internal messages.

  • Nikkei reports that employees leaving the company offices during their lunch break are having their absences monitored with time cards. Those who stay out too long are having their names announced throughout the company.

  • That there are cameras in the office corridors that aren't there for security, but rather to monitor the movements of Konami's own employees.

  • That most Konami employees do not have their own permanent company email addresses. Staff who must deal with people outside the company, such as sales and PR do; however, everyone else routinely has their address randomised and changed every few months. (Note: Konami employee emails are typically a few letters followed by a string of numbers, but this random email changing has been going on at Konami for years. A while back, one Konami employee told me this was done to prevent headhunting. Over the years, I have seen developers with company email addresses, but this might have changed recently.)

  • That Konami game developers who aren't seen as useful are reassigned to jobs as security guards, cleaning staff at the company's fitness clubs or roles at a pachi-slot machine factory. This includes not just junior staff, but producers who have worked on well-known game titles. In 2013, Asahi News, one of Japan's largest newspapers, ran an interview with a former Konami staffer who allegedly went from game development to working in Konami's pachi-slot factory, causing him to experience severe depression.

  • That one former employee, upon announcing on Facebook that they were leaving Konami and had got a new job elsewhere, had their post monitored. Nikkei says remaining Konami staff who "liked" the post were all reshuffled within the company.

Kotaku is following up with Konami for comment.

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter@Brian_Ashcraft.


Comments

    Well someone up the food chain has clearly lost the plot.

    I heard that konami eat babies!

    If this is true then this really is atrocious also good work on the author of this piece for keeping calm and reminding us that these are claims and allegations not facts

    holy fuck! That is disgraceful. I have never felt the "fuck Konami" slogan more until now.

    Last edited 03/08/15 7:10 pm

    Japanese companies ALWAYS treat their employees like cogs in a machine, it's just part of the corporate culture over there- the company first. But Konami seem like they're going above and beyond the call of duty to be as terrible a company as physically possible in every conceivable way. I'd call them the EA of the East, except they're making EA look GOOD by comparison!

    I predict the entire company will be basically dead within 3 years.

      Their games division, maybe. But video games for Konami are basically a lucrative hobby. They majority of their earnings come from the Pachinko machines they design and manufacture.

    Please tell me the government is sending Kojima to rescue them.
    Just like Foxhound turned bad, Konami has lost their way and only the legendary former member can save the day.

      Him and IGA will form a crack squad of elite game devs to break into and tear down Konami.

        I think the executive team of Konami will go on a field trip, only to be gassed and wake up on an island where Takeshi Kitano will tell them that they have three days to kill each other until only one remains. And then introduce them to 'transfer student' Kojima, who it's revealed previously won this contest and has volunteered to come back for another round.... of KONAMI Royale!

    How has it come to this? What the hell are they thinking?

    Ill just wait for IGA's new game and see what Kojima gets up to.

    Pretty much why MGS V will be a second hand purchase for me personally. it doesn't solve all the issues but it makes me feel a little better I suppose.

      The devs deserve money, too! Granted the lion's share will go to the head corp's coffers, they're still more likely to stay employed if people buy the game. Plus, bonuses and it'll look better on resumes, etc. if the game does well - particularly for Hideo himself.

        Sure the devs deserve the money, but that's a separate issue for a whole separate topic: re. the fairness of pre-owned games on the devs (Which is interestingly enough what I was thinking in my original post when I mentioned not solving all the issues).

        This is purely about not wanting to support a shoddy publisher plain and simple.

        Edit: Further more, other people would be buying it pe-owned later down the line regardless of whether or not I chose to.

        Last edited 03/08/15 8:58 pm

          For the record, I will absolutely be waiting til it's on sale. My love for Metal Gear is no match for my obsessive frugality. It's just I disagree with the principle that not buying this game will only hurt the publishers - particularly the people in charge of making the decisions. Voting with your wallet hurts a lot of people other than the intended audience.

            Well, lets be fair. I never said I was trying to hurt anyone or that I thought it would only hurt the publishers and not the developers. Personally I'm not big on the used games market and further more I'm not a massive MGS fan, but was looking forward to MGSV.

            Further more, I have to point out that I game on PC. So I don't even buy used. I wait for a $5-$10 sale for games like this. Console guys don't have that privilege and have to buy used for the most part (Even their marked down prices, which they have to wait longer for, aren't that inspiring for the most part). That is why I used the terminology that I did. I realise that the majority of the market are in the terribly unfortunate position of having to put up with paying high prices for new goods, or significantly lower for used.

            I'm not 'voting with my wallet'. I can wait for the game, it's just about what I'm spending my money money on and when. There shouldn't be anything nefarious about that.

            Further more, in a case like this, for the record, the developers are payed by the publisher for the hours put in. At least that's how its supposed to work, legally. If things are as bad as we have been hearing, buying more copies of the game, used, new or on sale, wont have any impact on the developers because Konami seem so set on the mobile and gambling sections of their company, that their MGS profits are never going to be enough. So much so that they are firing/ moving around the employees and creative directors. In this case, these people under Konami are already screwed, regardless of sales numbers.

            Hence, in a situation like this, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to used or new and I wont presume to tell you what to do with your money. I ask that you do the same for me.

            Last edited 03/08/15 11:13 pm

              All good. I didn't mean any offence, just stating my position. Hopefully Konami get their act together and Kojima and co. are able to find new homes when they're allowed to leave

    how many devs can Kojima smuggle out in a single cardboard box? that has mobile/mini-game written all over it!

    Holy shit, this is terrifying. I'm trying to think of something clever or witty to say, but there really are no words that adequately describe this situation. The way Konami is treating its staff has to be illegal.

      Heh, I suppose it's a bad thing when I went down the list and was 'been there, been there, been there, been there' - only no Facebook post monitoring because Facebook wasn't invented at the time.

      There's nothing illegal about what they do, it's just a shitty place to work. Instead of firing game devs over the cycle they re-employ them within the company.

      It's an argument in favour of unions, to be honest.

      Last edited 04/08/15 9:21 am

    Jim Sterling is going to have a field day.

      Indeed, I can almost hear his lilting enunciation already.

        Nah, he'll probably just do one of his famous two-minute smug cackles. I look forward to it.

    Recently I replayed through Fallout: New Vegas and there's a little building called H&H Tools Factory. Long story short, the owner is going insane and has set up crazy security measures because he thinks people are going to steal his ideas. It's scary how close this article sounds to that.

      People DO steal ideas from game companies though. It’s happened repeatedly. It’s not some kind of strange paranoia.
      Ask ID (Doom 3) or Valve (Half-Life 2) how pleasant it is when your source code and early versions of your game end up on the Pirate Bay six months before launch.

      Having machines that aren’t connected to the internet and email restrictions isn’t exactly hard-line security to prevent leaks/ theft.
      I’m sitting in an office right now where there’s security cameras, I had to swipe past security on the way in and they can tell when I’m here, all my emails can be monitored, my internet use can be restricted....

      Honestly apart from the reassigning of positions (which we really need more detail about), there’s nothing unusual at all in any of these accusations. Maybe not the most fun corporate environment, but there’s nothing here at all that’s anything newsworthy or has any real substance.

    Uhhh… so they have office security (probably to stop leaking/ hacks/ theft) that limits the use of internet/ private email at work?
    They keep track of when people are having breaks and they have security cameras in the office?
    And they expect people who aren’t currently busy to do other office tasks?

    None of those things are good, but they aren’t exactly damning accusations if you don’t already hate the company. It’s not like they’re chaining staff to the desk or beating them with sticks. Without evidence that they’re taking things to the extreme, none of those things listed above are particularly shocking by international standards- let alone for a Japanese software company.

    Ever been in an Australian Government Office? Swipe cards tracking entry, security cameras, internet and email regulation… pretty standard stuff.

    Well, good guy Konami bought up the PC release date of MGSV to that of consoles.

    Isn't this all pretty standard for large Japanese corporations? I've heard of very similar things in other large corporations there.. no one leaves the building until like 9pm or something ridiculous.. it's a cultural thing.

    Head of Konami has lost his damn mind. Reminds me of the Simpsons episode of Mr. Burns being paranoid of germs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=067ZRcsrdeM

    As a former public servant, this sounds horrifically draconian. As a teacher who works in a school... I can't leave the grounds or use the internet for personal use anyway... I'd rather be reassigned to work in a fitness club than be fired tbh :s

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