The Metal Gear series is in a really weird position right now. Much loved and adored by its hardcore fans, the series became a flashpoint for tensions between long-time head Hideo Kojima and Konami – the studio that owns the rights to the franchise. While he bailed for freedom at the earliest opportunity, Konami are left with a licence that’s both lucrative but hugely unusable. Logic would dictate that the series can’t continue, fan resentment is still high and anything wearing the Metal Gear name would be brandished an abomination among the series hardcore following. But if we’ve learned nothing else in the modern video game industry – just because something shouldn’t happen doesn’t guarantee it won’t anyway.
Which leads to me wonder, what have Konami got planned next? Conceivably there’s very little reason to believe that Konami won’t attempt to add to their main bank of Metal Gear games at some point. The series has too much name value and has one of the strongest hooks in the company’s roster of IP’s to overlook forever. While the games never sold amazing numbers in Japan, it’s usually in the West where the game does its big business – and it’s business that Konami wants more than anything right now.
This means that, in all likelihood, right now somewhere in one of Konami’s development studio’s, someone is working on what will eventually become Metal Gear Solid 6. Or Metal Gear 3. Or whatever Konami opt to do with the series. Given how important storyline and connections between titles have become over the years though, it might very well turn into a disaster if Konami fail to handle with care the series lore.
The problem with attempting to shoehorn yet more titles into the crowded Metal Gear Solid lore is that it ultimately would only end up antagonizing fans. It’s these people who arguably turned the series into the juggernaut it became, so Konami’s additions to the series lore may end up causing more damage than good. In particular because it’ll be hard to replicate Kojima’s brand of writing – that zany and incredibly over the top melodrama that was infused right into the heart of the series. It may have put some gamers off – but you certainly knew when you were rolling into a Kojima story. That’s creative lighting in a bottle and, for better or worse, is certainly not worth replicating poorly. Certainly it’s the biggest obstacle facing the series. Without its cult of personality at the helm, would fans accept anything else?
They could avoid this conundrum all together and go full nuclear; rebooting the franchise outright and consigning everything up to this point to the pages of history. If Konami were deadly serious about recrafting the franchise in their own image, it would be the cleanest way of achieving it without being tied to the previous work. Even if the new work wasn’t as well received as the previous games – so long as casual gamers bought into the franchise then the risk would be justified. There’s certainly not much respect for the established lore as it is, given how they found a way to work in time travel and zombies into the upcoming Metal Gear Survive – so why not go the next step and wipe it out?
Of course the one thing that the publishers can replicate; that’s the style of play. Metal Gear has evolved over the years from out and out sneak-em-up to a more natural blend of open-ended action. By the time MGSV landed, I’d argue the series had hit its peak in gameplay and was onto a real winner – I certainly wouldn’t say no to a game in the vain of Metal Gear Solid 5. In fact it’s arguably the one area that any sequel/prequel could really home in on. MGS5 wasn’t without flaws and the room for improvement could be one of the hooks that leads them to wanting to explore this avenue.
Then of course there’s huge stigma that the series has around it. Because of the way the entire divorce between Konami and Kojima played out, there’s still a huge amount of resentment from fans towards the series. Would anyone willingly go out to try out a new title? Even if it was a great game, I suspect many would boycott the next outing out of a sense of allegiance to the series creator. It’s greatness wouldn’t be showcased far and wide, instead
With so much working against the series, is there any hope for the future of the franchise? It’s a shame really, Metal Gear is a series that deserves to be further explored and has one of the more interesting tales woven throughout it. To think that the series is going to be left as nothing more than a husk to be picked over is somewhat sad.
Of course there’s always the option of Konami simply leaving the series on the table – given how Metal Gear Solid 5 acted as an bookend to the entire run. Yet I find this outcome incredibly hard to believe in, if only because the temptation to try and rework the franchise would be too much to pass over. Why let a franchise you don’t particularly care for fester away when you can probably rework it and make money spinning it out?
What would you like to see Konami do with the series next? Would it be best left for dead?