Death Stranding Did the Impossible
Hideo Kojima made everyone care about something brand new. He created a new IP with all new characters with a (kind of) new company and made a popular game that is a “game of the year” contender. Sure, not everyone is going to agree with the reception. Some believe it’s the greatest thing ever while others claim it’s hot garbage. I enjoyed it thoroughly – despite its issues with pacing and menu redundancy and clunkiness. However, given the high profile of the game, it’s easy to overlook how incredible its very existence is.
I don’t think anyone believed four years ago that Hideo Kojima was down for the count. Most familiar with his repeated claims he was done with Metal Gear Solid only to revisit it several times sort of set the stage for him to never give up on development. Yet I also don’t think many people assumed he would be creating a game from scratch to release with an entirely new studio within four years.
Most major publishers are afraid of new intellectual properties. Trying to get an audience behind something they aren’t familiar with is a tall task. Latching on to characters, settings, and familiar gameplay are the driving force behind money-printing franchises like Modern Warfare and Assassin’s Creed. Building all of these things from the ground up not only requires you to build interest, but it also costs more to develop new concepts, assets, and stories.
Kojima has the rare nature of being able to tie his name to a project (usually several dozen times) and add value with that alone. It’s almost like the “Tom Clancy” name being stapled on to everything Ubisoft does, except it actually means something. Kojima’s reputation brings with it a certain expectation, one that is exemplified even in Death Stranding. The 11+ hours of cutscenes, quirky characters with weird names, and expansive story are all hallmarks of his involvement.
It’s hard to say if Death Stranding is a one-hit-wonder for the newly founded Kojima Productions or the company will follow up with another game that will dominate conversations for weeks. Kojima has made mention of working on a horror game – perhaps in the design of the immensely popular Silent Hills P.T. He has also mentioned how to make a sequel to Death Stranding he would have to “start from scratch.” After finishing the game, I can see how that would probably be a requirement given its story of isolation and inclusion of virtually every character relevant to the setting.
Whatever the case, I think Sony is happy about their partnership with the now independent Kojima Productions and is probably working hard to publish another game to bolster future PlayStation 5 sales. I’m hoping it’s a venture back into the “tactical espionage action” that made me fall in love with Metal Gear Solid years ago. It won’t be Solid Snake and crew, but I think most fans know that the story is finished. However, it would be great to see a whole new universe built up around the stealth genre that Kojima popularized.