Back in December 2015, Hideo Kojima announced that he was setting up his own studio Kojima Productions. He had struck a deal with Sony. It all seemed so easy, but was it? No. But it didn’t hurt that he was Hideo Kojima.
Towards the end of a Famitsu interview, Kojima talked about the difficulties he experienced setting up his own studio.
“It was three years and nine months ago that I struck out on my own,” Kojima told Famitsu. “At that time, I was 53 years old. That’s an age in which you’d retire, right? My family members were also against the idea [of me setting up a new studio]. I was a 53-year-old middle-aged guy, I didn’t have any money or much of anything else, and it was just me saying I was going to make this open-world game.” Granted, Kojima might have had money, but probably not enough to finance the type of projects he was used to making.
According to Kojima, there were doubters that anyone thought the game would be good. “The reason for that is that there hasn’t been a single world-famous game designer who has had success after striking out on their own.”
There have been examples of developers setting up their own studios and being successful; however, there are many examples of devs setting up new studios and going bust.
This also sounds like he’s rewriting history a little bit. When Kojima left Konami, I remember the general consensus seemed to be that people were happy he could go make a new style of game and, considering how he was reportedly treated, there was a desire to see him succeed.
That doesn’t mean setting up his own studio was a cakewalk, especially in Japan, which can often make seemingly easy things complicated.
“Even when I went to the bank, I couldn’t borrow money,” he continued. “They said, ‘We know you’re renowned, but you don’t have any actual results.’ This is the kind of country Japan is.”
It can be quite difficult to get a loan in Japan, especially if you are not working for a large company. Kojima was on his own at this point, so financing his studio so he could get an office lease and hire staff might have been harder than you would think. Plus, making Metal Gear games was expensive and took lots of time. Those games always seem to have done better outside of Japan. All of this might explain the reluctance on the part of this financial institution.
“But then, there was a banker at the biggest bank [in Japan] who was a huge fan of mine, and I got the financing.”
Even though it was hard for him to get a loan, he’s still Hideo Kojima, which helps!
He’d eventually be asked, “What is Kojima Productions?”
To give confidence to the families of the staff he was hiring, Kojima wanted to set up the studio in a nice building. That way, he said, it would look like the company was going to be successful, and husbands and wives of his employees would be less inclined to worry. But usually, whenever he’d find a good building, he’d eventually be asked, “What is Kojima Productions?”
In Japan, Kojima isn’t as famous as someone like Hayao Miyazaki, so it seems like many landlords were unfamiliar with the studio’s previous iteration and his work. But out of those desirable locations, he once again lucked out in finding a fan and was able to move into the studio’s current location.
Corporate Japan insulates employees. So challenges like getting a loan or a lease, which most people in Japan experience when trying to set up their own company, certainly were not what Kojima was accustomed to. But when faced with these challenges, he didn’t give up. He recognized he had opportunities because of his Konami career.
“The reason why I’m who I am now is because of the thirty years I had at Konami,” Kojima told Famitsu. “I am grateful to Konami, and I cannot deny that connection.”
This isn’t the first time Kojima has thanked Konami. It appears that he not only has come to terms with his former employer but also realizes that the experience made him who he is.