Sources: When You Work At Konami, Big Brother Is Always Watching

Sources: When You Work At Konami, Big Brother Is Always Watching

Konami, the company behind Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill, does not appear to be a fun place to work. That’s according to reports in the Japanese press and new information shared with Kotaku by people close to the company. They describe a game development environment where Big Brother is always watching and where even your snack breaks are logged.

The gaming giant has recently been under fire as it transitions from the heralded company behind Castlevania and Metal Gear to a mobile-gaming-centric facility that will produce a Silent Hill slot machine as it pulls the plug on making a new Silent Hill and yanks a much-lauded interactive trailer for said game. The months leading up to the September release of the biggest Metal Gear Solid ever have been marred by Konami’s strange handling of its most famous game creator, Hideo Kojima.

Amid all this are accusations that Konami is run less like a game studio and more like a prison, with developers cut off from the internet, kept under surveillance, and shamed if they spend too much time at lunch. Some of those allegations appeared in a recent report by the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, a report we highlighted on Kotaku earlier this month.

Soon after Kotaku‘s story ran, current and former Konami staff reached out, providing more information on the situation there. Here’s what they said.

(Note that prior to publication, Kotaku twice reached out to Konami for comment, but the company has provided us no comment.)

  • Konami has an official division called the “Internal Audit Office” (内部監査室). One Konami employee compared them to the company’s own secret police. This division checks internal communication, such as email, Konami’s closed circuit cameras, and monitors who leaves and enters the company.
  • One source said that the Internal Audit Office will even contact the employers of ex-Konami staff to tell the new companies how awful these former workers were.
  • There is also a team within Konami called the Monitoring Group (モニタリング課). The team sit in a room that’s filled with monitors showing the internal CCTV feeds from cameras located within Konami. There are cameras in the company’s rooms, corridors and data centres. The Internal Audit Office has access to all this information for employee monitoring.
  • Konami employees who want to use the internet must apply via the IT department for an internet VPN. Employees who want to take a laptop home must also apply. If approved, they log in through a VPN. According to one former employee, screenshots of employee computers are randomly taken, which sometimes results in employees getting in trouble for what’s on their monitors.
  • There are rules about which entrance and exit employees can use, say current and former staff. When leaving, employees must show their Konami I.D., but then tell the security guard where they are going, whether that is to a nearby convenience store or just stepping out for a smoke break. When employees leave during normal business hours, this is tracked and compiled into a list. Employees who leave too often are reprimanded.
  • Current and former staff say that every Monday morning, Konami’s Operating Officers have a meeting which is taped and broadcast on an internal Konami website. All Konami employees must watch this meeting, and this is tracked. Employees who fail to watch the meeting have their name and division announced throughout the company.

Many companies monitor their employees, and when you work in a company, sacrificing your own privacy might be part of the deal. At Japanese game companies, time cards and pass keys are standard, but Kotaku spoke to several Japanese game company employees, working at companies of various sizes, who described Konami’s approach as “extreme” and “not the norm” in Japan. Current and former staff, and even those at other Japanese game companies described Konami’s surveillance and corporate culture as draconian or North Korean.

It’s unclear why Konami feels it needs this much security. Until recently, very little information seemed to leak from the game company, which has instead been suffering from a talent drain. Over the past few years, several of Konami’s biggest creators have left the company. Akari Uchida, creator of the popular Love Plus series, expressed his disgust towards Konami on Twitter. Love Plus, Castlevania, and Momotaro Dentetsu were some of the most famous titles Konami put out. These are just the “name” game creators. Konami has cycled through numerous other employees, current staff tells Kotaku.

No doubt Konami still has capable developers, but who would want to work in a corporate culture like this?

Top image: Jim Cooke (via Getty and Shutterstock)


  • Well given Konami make slot machines such as Queen of the nile etc. and have previous;y had the PRNG (pseudo random number generator) list go walkabout resulting in massive payoffs in Australia (I can only imagine what happened elsewhere), this may explain the insane amount of security.

    I personally know of 1 individual who got ahold of this sequence of numbers and got approximately $100,000 in one week from a small town.

    • There has to be more to it than that no?
      Having the algorithm would only allow you to know your chances to win unless you actually had a way to manipulate the machine itself.

      • You play two machines against each other, because if you know where you are in the sequence you know if something coming up will have a high score or low etc, you need to use a phone or something to keep track of it.

        So it’s a sequence the machine runs through that was generated randomly, if you use the same seed number in a rand generation you get the same sequence (if same cpu etc), knowing where you are in the sequence means you know when to bet big and when to only bet 1c.

        Notice how all the machines are linked? that is so that the machines are only paying out what they have to (60% of input cash for NSW I think) but if they have not paid then the jackpot goes up and up, especially if a lot of money has been input and you have 2 machines that have not paid out.

        wait until both have sizable jackpots waiting for you to hit collect then collect on both.

    • Only the Australian/SEA division specialise in slot machines, which I think is technically a separate entity to the video game division.

  • Sadly they’ve also just announced a 60% increase in profits last year, so clearly their management style ‘works’.

    • Slash your costs and you’ll see a short term boost. It’s great for spiking bonus payouts before the management bails.

  • Clearly unreasonable but we’re still goin to get a lot of those “don’t like it, don’t work there” morons who downplay every issue because they’re transparently insecure.

    • If those practices were happening in Australia it would be a scandal and the company would face criminal charges.

  • Current and former staff, and even those at other Japanese game companies described Konami’s surveillance and corporate culture as draconian or North Korean.
    “draconian or North Korean” wow.

  • As Jim Sterling always says “Fuck Konami”.
    I feel like pirating Phantom Pain and sending $60 to Kojima personally.

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