Hideo Kojima has garnered quite a reputation for deception and trickery over the years. Whether it’s been fooling fans with a sudden protagonist swap in Metal Gear Solid 2 or claiming that the initial reveal of MGSV was an unrelated title by a “Moby Dick Studios”, fans are often unsure of what to expect out of the guy.
Of course, all of those can be written off as simple white lies, right? It was less about actively deceiving fans and instead tried to stir up speculation. Community-based viral marketing practices are becoming increasingly common in the days of social media, so it makes sense that a vague, mildly misleading campaign could generate a far greater buzz than a more straightforward announcement. In some ways, that’s what’s been going on with Kojima’s upcoming title: Death Stranding. Details are scarce on what the game is actually about, with fans forced to make guesses from an assortment of pre-rendered trailers.
In this instance, though, I have to ask if Kojima’s taken it too far. After a lengthy trailer was shown at this year’s Game Awards, several people involved with the game - including Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro, and members of the development team - took to social media to express a common sentiment: they have no clue what the game’s about. Fans quickly started sharing these around, amused at the fact that they weren’t the only ones trying to figure out what exactly Kojima is working on.
Obviously, there’s a decent chance that this is all marketing fluff. It’s pretty hard for a development team to create a game when they don’t understand the game they’re making; hell, it’s hard enough to make a game when you do understand it. However, it raises concerns about how secretive Kojima is being about the development of Death Stranding. What if it’s not all marketing fluff? What if Norman Reedus actually has no clue what genre of game he’s starring in? What if the team programming the game logic has no information about the narrative? I mean, we haven’t even seen gameplay for the thing yet; it’s all just been cinematic trailers. Who knows if they even have a game? There seems to be a belief that Kojima’s just being a goofy scamp with whole thing, keeping people in the dark simply to mess with them. As someone who’s actually been involved with software development, though, let me just say: that’s a horrible idea.
Clients are constantly changing their minds. “Feature creep” is a term used to describe the seemingly infinite addition of “features” to a game during its development life cycle, often resulting in overcomplicated mechanics, excessive strains on developers, and overlooked bugs in the finished product. Sure, this isn’t Kojima’s first go-around as a game director, but Death Stranding is the first release from his standalone studio. There’s a lot riding on the team to prove themselves. If they’re dealing with misdirection and dissension among their ranks...well, it’s not a great sign for the future of Death Stranding.
I hope that the apparent cluelessness of many of Death Stranding’s key players is a farce. I hope that the game’s development is going smoothly and that soon we’ll all be able to see what Kojima Productions has been hard at work on. Above all, I hope that Death Stranding is as successful (or moreso) than Kojima’s esteemed Metal Gear Solid series. Ultimately, though, all this cloak and dagger nonsense is only serving to do one thing: make me extremely concerned for Death Stranding’s future.