Konami is a large and successful Japanese game developer and publisher to date. Their image in the eyes of fans had indeed decreased due to various controversies. For example the problem between Konami and Hideo Kojima, the creator of the Metal Gear series, the PC version of Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) which was abandoned by an old engine, and the adaptation of various popular intellectual properties to become a gambling machine (pachinko). But financially, Konami continues to be in good health, even growing.
In their financial report in May 2019, Konami announced that they had experienced profit growth for five consecutive years. The total revenue they earned was 262.5 billion Yen, up 9.6% from the previous year. Of the total revenue, the digital entertainment department (including video games) contributed the most, amounting to 141.7 billion Yen. What makes Konami so successful, even in the midst of a decline in brand image in society?
Media GamesIndustry.biz recently interviewed the president of Konami Europe, Masami Saso, to reveal the secret behind this success. In fact, the main key is diversification. Many gamers may usually associate the name Konami with game products on the console or PC, when in fact Konami also operates on other platforms.
“There are more and more types of gaming devices, and the number of people having the opportunity to play games is increasing. We’ve worked to put our IP across multiple devices, such as the PES series for consoles and mobile, as well as the Yu-Gi-Oh! in the form of physical cards and mobile games, to reach as many users as possible, “said Masami Saso.
PES is the most successful example of this diversification strategy. Since 2017, Konami has launched a mobile version of PES which has now been downloaded more than 200 million times. Yu-Gi-Oh! also experienced the same success on the mobile platform. Success on multiple platforms means that Konami doesn’t need to depend on just one platform to survive. They can continue to innovate on high-end devices (console and PC), then apply the results on other devices.
Interestingly, the success of Konami products on the mobile and console platforms reinforces one another. Saso said that Konami can create high-quality mobile games thanks to their experience developing games on consoles, arcades and PCs. Conversely, many fans are interested in buying games on the console because they have played it on the mobile version. A case in point is Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution, a Switch exclusive game that managed to become the best-selling game in all regions of Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa (EMEAA) in its first week of release.
Still related to PES, esports is also one of the important programs currently being carried out by Konami. This can be seen clearly from the rebranding of their PES title this year to eFootball PES 2020. Konami is also reportedly building an esports studio at their headquarters in Tokyo. Konami believes that competitive video games will be part of the evolution of the sport as a whole.
“Sports are always changing. In the past, it started with physical sports such as running, throwing, kicking, to field sports such as soccer and baseball. Along with the industrial revolution came motorsports, and now with more sophisticated technology comes esports.
Like any sport, I believe the goal of esports in this industry is to have an audience, millions of fans, and be a huge source of entertainment, even bigger than video games. But for now, as game publishers, we see it as a new ground to interact and enjoy games. Before we aim for the big goal, we first focus on how to develop the fun of playing, participating and watching esports, ”said Saso.
In the future Konami wants to become a leader in the global esports industry. They will continue to create games in various genres, both sophisticated and casual, and continue to host esports events in the future. Konami will also drive esports growth in titles other than Pro Evolution Soccer. Two titles that Saso mentioned specifically going into esports are Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links (mobile) and Super Bomberman R (PC and console). Konami hopes that esports can increase the fan base for these game titles, just as the mobile version of games will drive the success of IP on consoles.