It’s fair to say that Konami’s dedication to console game publishing has been waning in recent years. You only have to look at the number of titles it’s been putting out a year to see that.
Once a big presence on the release schedule with top-selling titles such as Silent Hill, Pro-Evo soccer and Metal Gear Solid. It has more recently been taking what could best be described as a more pragmatic approach, concentrating on mobile titles in its domestic market and other elements of its business empire – rather than taking risks on big budget console releases.
Today, the company isn’t announcing a new Metal Gear Solid but it’s publicly stating that it’s coming back to the console (and PC) market with a new third-party publishing strategy. Yes, your next game could be published by Konami.
IT’S KONAMI’S PARTY…
“We are open for business, we are looking for exciting and innovative titles of varying scale. And we’re really excited by this new programme. We can’t wait to show everyone where we’re going with it,” Konami’s Richard Jones, senior brand and business development manager, told MCV/DEVELOP this week.
And while he won’t be drawn on exact targets or budgets, the publisher is looking to build a considerable slate with third-party titles: “The primary objective of this programme is to bulk out our portfolio. And it is to bulk it out with exciting and diverse games, and specifically games that are targeting the western market as well.
“The idea is to diversify the portfolio. So we’re looking to work with external studios of all sizes, up to double-A and beyond at some point,” said Jones, hinting that top-tier budgets are a possibility in the future for the right title. But what is the right title for Konami? Is it something that will fit the brand’s traditional space, or is more looking to branch out and complement it, as Sega Europe has done with its strategy focus?
“I think that’s a really interesting analogy,” he says in reply. “We are looking to complement what is going on in Japan. So the dev teams in Japan are continuing to work on the Konami IP. And we will continue to publish those titles. And so the idea of what this programme offers is the chance for us at Konami Europe,and my colleagues in the US as well, is to find complementary titles.
Jones’s European team is looking for games that will appeal in Europe: “Western-centric IPs and games. Our main platform focus for now is premium PC and console. So those are the sort of areas where we’re looking to reinforce our release schedule.”
“The other area where Konami can excel is that route into the Japanese market.”
However, that doesn’t mean Konami won’t be using its considerable experience at home to push the right kind of titles there as well: “The other area where Konami can excel is that route into the Japanese market. So while I’m working for Konami Europe and I’m looking for products for the European market. I think one of the interesting areas that might be of interest to certain studios is our routes back into the Japan and Asian market.”
It’s certainly a point of difference that many other publishers would find hard to match without taking on another partner themselves. The Konami logo still carries a lot of weight in the territory. And the company is looking to all platforms and means in order to distribute its newly-signed titles globally.
“We’re completely agnostic as far as platform’s concerned,” says Jones when we ask about Steam, Epic and all the console platforms. “Our primary objective is PC and console at the moment – so whatever route to market that that involves.”
The recent pandemic looks to have further sped up the long slow decline of physical, but Konami’s global distribution knowledge for physical formats is still an attractive option.
“I think I think the recent global situation has made people reassess physical and digital. So it’ll be interesting to see when all the chips have fallen at the end of the year how those numbers add up.. That said, we have the infrastructure for physical distribution on a global level.
Speaking of the pandemic further, Jones admits that this isn’t quite the launch that they were planning, with his diary for this year all set to attend every major games event to find the greatest unsigned games.
“It couldn’t have come in a more awkward year,” he laughs. “The idea was I would be hitting the floors at GDC, Gamescom etc. Obviously, that hasn’t happened this year. There’s been a variety of video conference alternatives of course, which we’ve embraced with the removal of those expos and events from the calendar.”
OUT OF THE CLOSET
Today the company is also showing its initial release, which it will be bringing to all console platforms and PC, in the form of Ukuza’s Skelattack. It’s a great-looking, inverted dungeon crawler, in which the player must defend their dungeon from attacking adventurers. It’s a classic indie title and that alone is a new direction for the publisher.
“Konami has experience of everything from triple A, right the way down to arcade conversions and niche mini games, we have a wealth of experience in that area. So while we’re not specifically targeting indie, we have just released Skellattack, which comfortably fits into the description of indie. And I think the interesting question of ‘what Konami can bring’ becomes increasingly interesting when you’re talking about publishing today.
“We all know that landscape has changed over recent years, right now there’s many, many routes to market for these studios and a publisher partnership is still one of those. And while a publisher partnership might not be what every studio wants or every studio needs. It does offer a great number of advantages to those people that choose to go to down that route.
“We all know there’s a number of publishers out there offering great services to studios of all sizes. But we believe that we have a strong offering that we can bring people that would be the perfect fit for certain developers.
And Jones sets out the thinking behind the new initiative:
“Ever since the beginning of our discussions about this programme, our mantra has been developer first, the idea is to ensure that they are front and centre of everything that we do. And the idea is that we give them the best opportunity to succeed.
“Developers are not necessarily set up with in-house capacity for publishing roles. So we’re in a position to offer the support that they need, to those studios that might be interested in the publisher route, we bring our expertise and international teams to handle tasks that they probably don’t want, or they don’t, have the capacity to do so: marketing, PR, sales, distribution, as well as development services, like QA, localization, age ratings, and third-party relationships. So traditionally what the publisher brings.
“And by saying that we want the developer to be front and centre, we want to allow them to do what they love doing, do what they’re best at doing, which is make games, and then we can kind of fit in and do the going to market part.”
We wonder if the team is drawn from current staff or whether its been expanding its publishing capabilities to handle the new titles.
“We’re currently a small and focused team, or teams I should say, we have one in Europe, and one in the US. Now, Konami Europe and Konami US. We are focused on our respective territories but we are working very, very closely together in tandem to ensure that we bring games that resonate with both markets and and complement the work of Konami Japan.
“I can’t really comment about internal structures too much, but I guess the overview is that we’ve done some reorganising to bring together a core of people, their focus is on sourcing the projects and working with the studios to get those projects over the line.”
“We want the developer to be front and centre, we want to allow them to do what they love doing, do what they’re best at doing, which is make games.”
“And the other thing I can say is that management throughout the company are fully behind this initiative. That’s management in Europe, the US and of course, Japan. So they’re fully behind our drive to run this programme, to create diverse content and build an international release schedule.
The publisher market for titles from indie up to double-A is certainly competitive already, but it’s easy to see that Konami, with tis still considerable global reach can find a space here, the real test will be whether it can pick the hits, but at least at first any titles signed will undoubtedly gain exposure from the strength of that classic logo behind them.
If you have an unsigned title and are looking for a publisher then get in contact with Richard Jones at Konami via firstname.lastname@example.org.